Akrotiri Thera Fresco, c. sixteenth century BCE
Likely dating back to the first interaction between civilizations of Homo sapiens from different geographic origins, the trade system is both as simple and complex as one wants it to be. An entity has something; another entity has another thing; each one wants what the other has, giving up as little as possible in order to gain it. With the exception of a few law-making scandals here and some ethical creativity there, that is all trade has ever been, whether it be Mycenaeans utilizing the Danube River, or your possibly drug-addled stockbroker gambling your retirement on the latest cryptocurrency.
Though the exchange of humans themselves largely, mercifully went out of fashion over the past two centuries, it remains a compelling means of business in the public arena of professional sports. We watch the games for a variety of reasons, but in the age of social media, reaction has become nearly as important as action. A team wins, and another loses. The former has to maintain its formula, while the latter has to figure out an antidote.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign was the coldest consolation prize for the first season since moving from Seattle spent without Kevin Durant. To paraphrase ESPN staff writer Royce Young, as eye-poppingly ostentatious as it was, for the Thunder to succeed with him, Westbrook’s 2016-’17 season can never happen again. The Monolith needed help, and on Tuesday, that help officially arrived.
“Salieri pours poison into Mozart’s glass,” Mikhail Vrubel
The popular perception of Antonio Salieri, if the stage and film versions of Amadeus are to be believed, is that he was the unforgiving rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the man who championed the Austrian composer publicly while attempting to derail his career privately, like a southbound A train without a supportive governor for support. The film, of course, used poetic license to an extreme in the cases of both Salieri and Mozart, suggesting that, while there was some sense of rivalry, there was also a begrudging respect, manifested in the fact that Salieri conducted a handful of Mozart’s works both while the composer was alive and afterward.
A physical specimen of uncommon stature, even by 2017 standards, Russell Westbrook is not the prototypical NBA player. He stands at a modest 6’3” and weighs an everyman-esque 200 pounds, yet he in his 6’3”, 200-pound frame has done more in an athletic context, pound for pound, than perhaps anyone else (a) not playing upper echelon European soccer, (b) not an NFL quarter- or halfback, if that counts or (c) named Allen Iverson. On Monday night, for his efforts this past season, one which was forgotten by June but will never, ever be forgotten, Westbrook was awarded this season’s Most Valuable Player.
Courtesy of NBA.com
Since their move from New Jersey in the summer of 2012, the current Brooklyn Nets franchise has had a grand total of two (2) NBA All-Stars. The most recent is the ageless, egoless, nearly-anonymous Joe Johnson, fresh off eviscerating unsuspecting foes with his iso-heavy wizardry and shooting among the best percentages of his career in both the regular season and playoffs with the Utah Jazz.
The other is a twin with a noted fondness for everything Disney and cats. He toiled for several years with a team that squeaked into the playoffs in 2015 before descending into what is essentially indentured servitude to the Boston Celtics, a lottery-bound squad without recourse that has racked up a grand total of 41 wins over the past two seasons. Following a pre-draft trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, perhaps, finally, Brook Lopez will be able to find peace.
Courtesy of Joe Lacob’s ego
At what point, if at all, did you dare to dream? You knew the circumstances, the insurmountable odds, the fact that a championship team followed up its title by winning 73 games only to lose in Internet-infamous fashion, perhaps spurring the acquisition of the second (which, he loves that, and don’t let his championship and Finals MVP tell you otherwise)-best basketball player on the planet. You knew this.
And yet, you dared to think, if only for a moment, what calamity it would be, what a catastrophic occurrence for the foundation of the game of basketball it would be if the Golden State Warriors, featuring three of perhaps the five best shooters in NBA history, lost in the Finals after leading 3-0. I know you did, because I did too. We both knew better but wanted to stave off the anger of Durant joining this team and ending any reasonable expectation of the all-important “parity” in the NBA for the next 3-5 years. As it is, it shall be.
Is he the Greatest Of All-Time? To answer that question in the affirmative, some folks believe that LeBron James must defeat these Golden State Warriors, after requiring he defeat them last year and the year before that. By having any spots, his Finals record already pales in comparison to Michael Jordan’s, albeit in a vastly different basketball landscape.
This fact alone seems to power most of the counterarguments against James, whose shadow grows with every impossibility realized. And yet, it is never enough. What would silence the criticism?
Allora, in a word, nothing.
Wow, this is a freaky photo.
Confession: I really hate pretty much every “Let’s debate who was the better player!” discussions. Because they’re not really discussions. We always just talk in circles. We always (particularly when talking about athletes in team sports) use team accomplishments to judge individual players. It’s just a time suck. And no one comes away with a different outlook! It’s never worth the effort.
The current “Let’s Talk In Circles” debate about Michael Jordan vs. LeBron isn’t even a *new* one. But the arguments for either side are always the same. From “Michael never lost a Finals!” to “LeBron beat a 73-win team!” to “Jordan played in an era where the play was more physical” to “LeBron never had a Scottie Pippen!”—it’s all so boring.
So what are we doing today? I, Jordy McKever, will for sure determine (with, like, the best criteria, of course) who was the better…um, dude. Oh, did you think this would be talking about basketball? Oh, come on, I just spent 100 words trashing that kind of debate!
Courtesy, I guess, of Absolute Entertainment
“One man. One bus. Three hundred and sixty miles of simulated post-apocalyptic desert, and the endless struggle between man and nature personified.”
So begins the description of the iTunes version of Desert Bus, a minigame which originated on Sega and the PC within the world of Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors and which has been hailed by some, including The New Yorker, as “the very worst video game ever created.” It is a testament to futility, yet one which allows for the possibility, however minimal and cockamamie, of victory. Drive the distance from Tucson to Las Vegas, in painstaking real time and with the bus constantly swerving just so to the right, and be rewarded with a single, solitary point. The game cannot be paused.
The metaphor you likely saw coming: LeBron James is the driver of this bus. Each game of these Finals is likely to be his own, personal trek to Las Vegas on behalf of a nation that unwittingly bought a ticket. We’re all aboard for the rubber match of a rivalry that is set to define this revolutionary half-decade of NBA basketball, a handful of years which will determine the course of the league, and its game, for a long while. But first, of course, must come the unmanageable task of the series itself.