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The Word 'Swagger' Is Dead, Except In These Specific Circumstances

We really need to stop using the words 'swag' and 'swagger'. Forever. But before we kill swagger, we need to celebrate it.

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We really need to stop using the words 'swag' and 'swagger'. Forever. But before we kill swagger, we need to celebrate it. (Picture via Twitter)
We really need to stop using the words 'swag' and 'swagger'. Forever. But before we kill swagger, we need to celebrate it. (Picture via Twitter)

We need to stop using the word [redacted] and its derivative cousin [redacted]. They are words that make me angry every time I see them, because I'm reminded of Tim Tebow, Drake, SportsCenter, Soulja Boy, Justin Bieber, and everyone else responsible for turning [redacted] the "Jiggy" of the aughts. You already know exactly what we're talking about.

And Thursday night just took things to a whole new low.

I wrote about the Pacers' "swagger" shirts yesterday asking for a universal ban on the word, but see ... It's not actually that simple. Because swagger isn't always that ridiculous. It's not just a made up word sent to earth via Twitter to slowly work us all into a homicidal rage. It's not "jiggy" or "bling". It describes a real quality that some people display, whether by nature or in specific situations.

For instance, I was watching a documentary on Joe Namath this week. People don't always realize quite how average a quarterback Joe Namath was. Go look up his stats. They are painfully mediocre. He's less Tom Brady, and more like, I don't know, Tony Banks. But he's also one of the most iconic, batshit awesome characters that sports has ever seen.

To wit:

"Do you drink during the football season?" he was asked.

"Just about all the time."

"What do you, taper off before the game?"

A grin spread from his mouth. His light green eyes had fun in them. "The night before the Oakland game, I got the whole family in town and there’s people all over my apartment and the phone keeps ringing. I wanted to get away from everything. Too crowded and too much noise. So I went to the Bachelors Three and grabbed a girl and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red and went to the Summit Hotel and stayed in bed all night with the girl and the bottle."

The Oakland game was in late December and it was for the American League championship. On Sunday morning, the Oakland Raiders football team, fresh-eyed from an early bedcheck and a night’s sleep, uniform-neat in their team blazers, filed into a private dining room in the Waldorf-Astoria for the pre-game meal. Meanwhile, just across the street in the Summit Hotel, Joe Willie Namath was patting the broad goodbye, putting an empty whiskey bottle in the wastebasket, dressing up in his mink coat and leaving for the ballgame. It was a cold, windy day and late in the afternoon Namath threw one 50 yards to Don Maynard and the Jets were the league champions. The Oakland team went home in their team blazers.

No, Namath was not actually that great of a quarterback, but he won anyway. Even in the championship game, after a night of drinking and sex. He partied harder than anyone in sports, slept with more women than anyone this side of Wilt Chamberlain, and nobody has ever criticized him for any of it.

Because, shit, he's Joe Namath.

THAT man has swagger. LeBron James is balding, entrusted his career to the tutelage of Maverick Carter, clams up in crunch time, and once made a power point presentation to promote his birthday party. THAT man has [redacted]. There's an important difference there. Derek Jeter has swagger, Alex Rodriguez has [redacted]. See what we're saying?

So, if we're killing off the word for good, that's okay. It's for the best. But before we do, we should at least point a handful of characters for whom it absolutely works. Where it's the only word that fits, really. Before a funeral, there's gotta be a wake, right?

Without further ado, in no particular order...

Bo Jackson (via Wikipedia):

While with the Sox, Jackson promised his mom that once he returned from his hip replacement surgery that he would hit a home run for her. Before he could return, his mother died. In his first at bat after surgery he hit a home run to right field. Jackson had the ball engraved in his mother's tombstone.

Drew Brees (via New Orleans Times-Picayune)

At the age of 12, he was the top-ranked tennis player in Texas and defeated Andy Roddick three times as a junior. ... A few years later he starred in three sports at Westlake High School: football, basketball and baseball, where he was a power-hitting infielder and a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher with an 88-mph fastball.

Last year he and quarterback Mark Brunell pounded home runs off manager-turned-batting-practice-pitcher Ken Oberkfell before a Triple-A baseball game at Zephyr Field. Brees bashed five home runs. One ball landed in the swimming pool over the fence in right field.

He's developed into a 3-handicapper in golf, a sport he didn't start playing regularly until his junior year of college. He has shot a couple of 71s, including one at New Orleans Country Club. This summer he hit his first hole-in-one...

Rick Ross (via GQ)

"Cannes," he says, like the word transports him back. "That was my first time going there. Took the team over, ended up fucking around, getting some Ferraris, Lamborghinis, going to the Eden Roc, kicking it with a few homeys. Shout-out to Leonardo DiCaprio."

Paul Silas (via Brian Windhorst at The Big Lead)

Ira Newble, who lived in ATL and had just signed with the Cavs from the Hawks, only got a few minutes with all sorts of friends and family there. He got up in coach Paul Silas’ face in the locker room after the game. While we’re waiting to get in, Newble busts out of the locker room only half dressed. Silas follows him into the hallway and yells: "Get back here you hip hop muther——, I’m not done with you!" Newble stops and glares him and Silas gets into a stance like he’s ready to take a swing. I’m standing there in the middle, seven inches shorter than both, looking at the fire in their eyes. Ira leans like he’s going to come back but then goes the other direction. Silas just sniffled and said "S—," and walked back into the locker room...

Mikhail Prokhorov (via YouTube):

He commissioned this professionally produced video of himself doing Jet Ski stunts. Cuz that's how you oligarch, SON. (Also see: Mikhail Prokhorov rapping.)

Allen Iverson (via YouTube):

"I love him to death, he's a great basketball player, he's somebody I looked up to, I got a lot of respect for him. But that's my dance floor too." -- on the Chris Rock show in 1999, explaining his Michael Jordan crossover during his rookie year

(Elsewhere in that interview: "I got white friends. My lawyers.")

George Clooney (via Esquire):

I remember when Richard Kind's dad suddenly died. This was about seven or eight years ago — maybe more. Richard's a really wonderful character actor. He loved his dad, and he was very grown-up about passing on the news. He called and left a message: My dad died, I'm in Chicago, the funeral's going to be in New Jersey tomorrow morning. I'll talk to you when I get back.

This was five o'clock at night. I was in L. A. Rick is a Jew. They bury the next day. They don't screw around. They get you right in the ground. So I called up Michael, Grant's brother, and told him Richard's dad died. He said, "We should be there." The guys were all around the country. One was in Denver. One was in San Diego.

So I got a jet and we spent the whole night flying around the country. San Diego, Denver. We landed in Trenton, New Jersey. Richard didn't know anything about it. ... And Richard gets up to speak about his dad and he sees his nine best friends there.

Barack Obama. Yeah, him. (via YouTube)

Just gonna belt out some Al Green on command like that? Okay.

Larry Bird (via Unfinished Business)

Bird used to joke that he wanted to be the fattest man driving out of Boston when he stopped playing, but like many athletes near the end of their careers, he had a change of heart. ... He liked his body when it was in tune and humming, and he wanted to keep that feeling in civilian life.

"I think I wanna be active," said Bird. "What I might do, though, is git in shape, git outta shape, then git in shape again. I won't do it like I used to, though. It's gittin tougher. Three years ago I could lose 15 pounds like it's nothin. Now? I don't know if I could." He had put on a few pounds when he was out of action, but he wasn't sure how many. "I was so bored, I'd set around the house, drive my wife crazy, and eat and eat. In two and a half weeks I was off I ate ten gallons of ice cream and seven weddin' cakes. Why them? I ate weddin cakes 'cause you knew they was gonna be good. I mean, who would fuck up a weddin' cake?"

The conversation turned to his future. "Never thought about coachin', and I'm not sure I'd be patient enough for it. The one I know I'll do is go on a fishing tour for a year. Maybe play some golf, but that's it. Let my body heal up and figger out what I wanna do with the rest of my life." He smiled. "I already know that, though. I'd like to fish every day. I'd never get tired of it. Why would I have to do anythin' else? I bin playin' basketball for twenty-some years, and that hasn't changed. It could be the same with fishin'. Exactly the same."

This week Larry Bird became the first person in history to an MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. I like to think he's still fishing once-a-day, though.

Chris Mullin, in the '80s (via The Art Of A Beautiful Game)

…Mullin is said to have sunk 194 consecutive jumpers during a workout. So pure is the stroke of such shooters that it is oblivious to all attempts at sabotage, both external, or internal. A journalist buddy of mine has a friend who used to work at a beach club on Long Island. He recalls once coming up on Mullin at the club, a few years after Mullin left St. John’s and before he quit drinking. It was late one summer night, almost dark, and the friend heard sounds coming from a nearby basketball court. Checking it out, he discovered Mullin, standing there by himself, taking swigs of beer with his right hand and launching one-handed three-pointers with his left, a partially completed six-pack at his side. Shot after shot sank through the net. Swig. Swish. Swig. Swish. Swig. Swish.

The Entire Dream Team

(Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)

Note: coaches definitely definitely not included.

Sergeant Stubby (via EDSBS, Wikipedia):

Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. ... Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Schieprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by the retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and as he had done on the front was able to improve morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches.

After being gassed himself, Stubby learned to warn his unit of poison gas attacks, located wounded soldiers in no man's land, and — since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans could — became very adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover. He was solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne. Following the retaking of Château-Thierry by the US, the thankful women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals. There is also a legend that while in Paris with Corporal Conroy, Stubby saved a young girl from being hit by a car. At the end of the war, Conroy smuggled Stubby home. ... After returning home, Stubby became a celebrity and marched in, and normally led, many parades across the country.

Jay-Z (via Vulture)

On Tuesday, Vulture linked to The Atlantic article Jay-Z’s Great Champagne Robbery, which alleged that Hova was secretly profiting off his deal with secretly crappy Champagne Armand de Brignac. Later that day, the article — an excerpt from Zack O’Malley Greenburg's upcoming book on Jay — was taken down from The Atlantic's site.


There are a few ways to look at this. First, you can take The Atlantic at its word and accept that, despite appearances to the contrary, taking down the excerpt really did have nothing to do with ruffling feathers. Second, you can let your conspiratorial mind wander, and assume that Vatican assassins deployed by Jay-Z pulled out some dastardly trickery and convinced The Atlantic to cover up the ugly truth. With the latter option, there is an additional division: Either you shake a fist at Jay's deceitful machinations — or you marvel at his all-encompassing power.

But seriously, that banned Atlantic article is just out of control.

Kanye West (XXL via Vulture)

"How many times have people taunted me because of a color that I had on or how tight my pants were? It's nothing. I'm at the point now where I can go to ABC Carpet and spend five hours picking out sheets, 'cause I love colors, like teal and taupe and salmon ... When I visited Wayne at Rikers Island, I had a suit on with some slippers, and the guard said, 'Man, those shoes are amazing.' And I said, 'Yes, they are. I'm Kanye West.'"

Also, from Complex:

...the wall of Kanye Commandments posted on 8.5"x 11" sheets of paper on one side of the studio. They include the obvious—"No Tweeting" and "No Pictures"—and some...well, some less obvious ones, too. Not that "No Hipster Hats" and "Just Shut the Fuck Up Sometimes" aren't rules to live by

Charles Oakley (via CBC):

Later, when asked about the debt, and whether it ever got paid, Oakley wouldn't say, except that the fee had been doubled. As Oakley told the CBC, "Everything in life is double. If he didn't pay me $108,000, he didn't pay me."

Deion Sanders (via Boys Will Be Boys):

On one of his early days with the team, Sanders ran into Alundis Brice, who just so happened to wear uniform no. 21, Sander's digits of choice, at a Dallas-based BMW dealer. The rookie defensive back had long wanted to own a BMW 325i, and he was here to make it a reality. "Brice, what are you doing?" asked Sanders.

"I'm gonna buy this car tomorrow," he said. "But first I have to call my agent and set it up."

"It's your first sports car?" asked Sanders.


"Are you gonna pay cash for it?" Sanders asked.


Sanders nodded and drove off.

The next morning, Brice reported to Valley Ranch and was dismayed to to spot his dream car--a brand new metallic blue 325i with all the trimmings--parked in the players' lot. "I can't believe this," he said. "Somebody bought my car."

When he approached his locker, Brice noticed the keys on his stool alongside a note from Sanders. It read: NOW GIVE ME MY DAMN JERSEY.

Pablo Escobar (via Mental Floss)

Escobar had already forged a new partnership with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and the operation didn’t miss a beat. In fact from 1982-1984 shipments jumped from 80 tons to 145 tons, flooding the U.S. market and causing wholesale prices to drop from $60,000 per kilo to $16,000. But cash flow remained absurd, with revenues of $3 billion in 1983 and $2.3 billion in 1984, netting Escobar alone at least $1.3 billion in profit. Around this time he bought a Learjet to fly cash out of the U.S., and the Cartel’s expenses included $2,500 per month for rubber bands for bricks of cash.

Nick Young (via Instagram)


Just because we're killing swagger doesn't mean we stop calling Nick Young "Swaggy P". There are exceptions to these new rules, and this one's really important. Nobody can stop the Swaggy P movement. (Same goes for SWAGGASUITS.)

Other notable names: Muhammad Ali, Pete Maravich, Ed Reed, Tina Fey, Diego Maradona, Mike Leach, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, ?uestlove, Beyonce, Derek Jeter, John Daly, Andre 3000, George W. Bush, Justin Timberlake, Jim Bankoff, and of course Bill Clinton, who may have more swagger than any single human being in the history of the world.

And we've left off plenty of others, obviously. But you get the idea. So now that we've celebrated swagger at its finest, it's time to kill that word forever. Starting now. Set it on fire and put it out to sea, preferably on a boat with Tim Tebow and Drake. Abusing [redacted] just insults the legacies of people like Joe Namatah, anyway.

If we all agree on this, together we can make it happen.

Everyone go have a great weekend, and live your life like Rick Ross would want you to.