Robert Hanashiro – USA TODAY Sports
Let me begin by saying this, a sequence of phrases I never expected to type or read sequentially: this Martin Luther King Day will live in NBA Twitter infamy for the foreseeable future. It may rival Banana Boat Day as *the* definitive day in the cultural zeitgeist for many fans, being that it involved several more teams, as well as more star players, than that one did.
In a perfect reflection of its time, Monday was such an unabashedly ridiculous day that a few otherwise newsworthy headlines – Kyle Lowry challenging Ben Simmons to a fight; Russell Westbrook receiving an undeserving ejection before Carmelo Anthony defends him; the Hawks closing out on their (former) spiritual predecessors, the San Antonio Spurs; a second-tier Eastern Conference rivalry-in-the-making getting outstanding games from nearly all of its stars as the Bucks beat the Wizards; Memphis’ push to instill hope in Marc Gasol; Victor Oladipo’s revenge tour rolling over Utah; the Hornets winning a game(!); Cleveland literally shutting the hot water off on the preeminent team in the league, prompting Kevin Durant to call upon LeBron (the true owner) to fix things; the Knicks actually closing out a game over a winnable opponent – will get lost to history. No matter. The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers provided the kind of New York Post-worthy insanity to which only would-be kings and Kardashians aspire.
Graphic by Brian Kraker
Because 2016 wasn’t enough, 2017 has gone out of its way to escape its predecessor’s shadow and destroy the boundaries for how gratifyingly repugnant a single calendar year can be. Each day was a test of psychological fortitude on the parts of literally billions of people around this flat earth of ours, which somehow has yet to file for emancipation from us. For every second chance, we deliver a second disappointment, and a third, and a fourth, and–
Has the constant stream of threats, misguided anger, choose-your-own-isms and quasi-political figures you’re supposed to remember yet immediately forget driven you directly to the doctor’s office? Better there than to stay and wait for the robots to replace you, anyway.
We all have a thousand brilliant lies for the question, “How are you?” The better question, as we turn the corner with a glaring snarl, ’17 going on ’18, may very well be: Are you having fun yet?
Photo courtesy of Reuters
Quick, off the top of your head: who was the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d’Or? It has literally been a decade, for starters. It’s a period of shared dominance so lengthy that the award itself has changed structure and name twice within that time, and yes, it is a truly enviable time to be watching soccer with these two creating magic week after week.
No matter if you didn’t come up with the answer quickly; the dichotomy of these two stars, whose orbits encapsulate seemingly the entire history of the game they have perfected in wholly contrasting styles, is so clear and sustained that you’d be forgiven for thinking the game hardly existed before them. But once upon a time, a Brazilian with flowing locks and a million-real smile was the best player in the world, sporting a combination of skill and native moxie that catapulted him to superstardom. This morning, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaka and as the answer to that question until further notice, announced his retirement from soccer.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Some things have a way of shocking you when they have no business doing so. A tyrannical figure of popular culture, bowing at the altar of truths unspoken for years, decades even, on his (always “his”) way out to pasture; an airline bumping your flight up two minutes, giving you reason to engage in cognitive dissonance between “What difference does that make?” and “Time in travel is everything”; a disgraced senator riding near-hilariously antiquated fantasies to a too-slim loss of his seat and, as far as everyone is concerned, his relevance.
While the mountains that moved to make some recent changes refused to rattle in the English Premier League to the extent that they once did for the likes of Claudio Ranieri and company, the stars keep dressing themselves up and shivering just enough for a once-beleaguered and tormented club. With its 4-0 win over Swansea City on Wednesday, Manchester City established a new record for consecutive league wins. At the center of this triumphant firestorm is one Pep Guardiola, the ex-“Next-Greatest Manager Ever” and a man of footy demons both external and internal.
Fable of the Bear and the Bees, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
The last time we took a close look at Andre Drummond – collectively, you and I, because we’re in this incomparable, unprecedented mess together, as we’re reminded the instant we awake every single day – he was dominating in the archaic sense for the Detroit Pistons as a 22-year-old center, posting grotesque point and rebound totals, particularly on the offensive glass, while not paying much mind to the trends that had already begun shaping the NBA as it is today.
After his historically-hot start, Drummond cooled off, finishing that season averaging 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 38.9% from the free throw line. The Pistons stumbled to a 32-50 record, but at least Drummond was consistent. While big men such as Kevin Love, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis inched farther from the paint on offense, and Draymond Green was busy redefining the very idea of what a center could be with Golden State, Drummond remained the platonic ideal of centers in bygone eras, towering boulders built to destroy purely by force.
Elasmotherium (“Thin Plate Beast”), Heinrich Harder
Unicorns occupy a peculiar place in Greek culture. Their origin lies not in their influential mythology, the myths and teachings that formed something like a theological basis in ancient times and source material for an avid Edith Hamilton, but rather with the accounts of historians and thinkers who generally believed them to exist, even if they hadn’t ever seen them before. The lines between myth and fact became blurred with almost encouraged ease, as poets, playwrights and dramatists – both professionally and otherwise – began to utilize the image of a unicorn as their means of communication. The unicorn was, and is, a representation of hope; nothing more, nothing less.
Plenty of discussion has surrounded the unicorn in the NBA this season as well, although its version is understood to be a metaphor from the start. Along with a post-Decision manifestation of player power, a personably manic online ego and the most creative use of cupcakes this side of Edible Arrangements, we have Kevin Durant to thank for many things, not the least of which is his dubbing Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis “a unicorn” during the Latvian’s rookie season.
Shakespeare and His Friends, John Faed (1859)
It has been a tough start to the NBA season for most, no? Only ten days ago, hope burned within the hearts of fans and players across the league, even if not necessarily to win a title – because the Golden State was absolutely going to do that, no questions asked, and Kevin Durant’s fake Twitter accounts were here to set you straight if you thought otherwise – then, at the very least, to prove themselves worthy of attention beyond the Warriors and their would-be title challengers in Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City.
Flash-forward to now, and here is an incomplete injury report, only including players hurt since the start of the season: Gordon Hayward (leg-ankle); Chris Paul (knee); Jeremy Lin (knee); Markelle Fultz (shoulder); Milos Teodosic (foot); Dwyane Wade (knee); and Frank Ntilikina (ankle), along with a few more. Hayward’s and Lin’s injuries were each gruesome in their own ways. Fultz’s is disrupting The Process. People are going mad in the streets and online over their favorite team’s inability to keep rotations together.