Click here for an enlarged version of the above photo; you’re gonna need it.
Though they actually began on August 3rd with several group stage soccer matches, the Olympics spring to life in the hearts of most with today’s opening ceremony. Working with a budget of roughly £3 million, a tenth of what the 2012 opening ceremony in London cost, a nation ill-equipped to host an Olympics is going to go full-throttle into it anyway, featuring such Brazilian luminaries as Gisele Bundchen and Dame Judi Dench in the Maracana, where the Olympic cauldron will receive the Flame. Much has already been made of the ethical and economic implications of these Olympics, and more awaits. Either way, they’re here now, so we may as well do our best to embrace them.
The U.S. figures to play a prominent role in most competitions, with swimming, gymnastics and track and field being among the most noteworthy. Basketball, also, is notable, though most have written off the tournament as one in which every country aside from the United States is battling for second. That seems reasonable; this country would be loath to repeat a disaster like what happened in Athens in 2004. To mark the Games, 2K Sports has released an Olympic team available for play, not unlike when they did so in 2012 with the Dream and Redeem Teams. So, sure, the real-life versions of these NBA stars are extremely likely to bring home the gold. The NBA2K equivalents pictured above, however, seem bound for much dimmer pastures.
“Once a Knick, always a Knick.”
These are the words emblazoned across a picture the New York Knicks chose to post in celebration of Amar’e Stoudemire signing a one-day contract on Tuesday so that he could retire with the franchise he helped revitalize in the summer of 2010. At 33, the man who once posted a picture of himself bathing in red wine decided he had had enough of basketball, or perhaps that basketball had had enough of him.
Few in the history of professional basketball embody the kind of paradox he does. To a certain generation of NBA fans, he represents one very distinct, dynamic kind of player; to another, ever-so-slightly generation, he represents a broken promise, an undoing not entirely or even at all his own, but a bulky set of talcum shoulders on which to rest blame nonetheless.
The Greek tragedian Sophocles is credited with having said, “There is a point at which even justice does injury.”  Sophocles was making a point about well-intentioned people making decisions on behalf of others, seemingly in the best interests of those people, but too often in ancient Greece those intentions went by the wayside due to the people making them – namely, warped, frustrated old men in positions of importance whose self-importance far outweighed the capacity with which they would be able to conduct their due diligence for the greater good.
In news abstractly related to that last part, about warped, frustrated old men and the power they recklessly wield, the New York Knicks traded for Derrick Rose on Wednesday, a move that suggests reaching for a broken jar in order to catch a lightning bolt from a storm long since passed.
It happens every so often: out of the inbounds pass, someone, whether Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway or another person whose legal job description is “playing basketball,” will jog up the court, turn, see a 7’3″ Latvian who can’t legally drink in the United States and hurl a pass in his general direction above the crest of the three-point line, like someone lazily tossing a frisbee forehand. Upon surveying his amicably deserted surroundings, the young giant will hoist a shot, hold his still developing form and, much to the delight of damn near anyone who is lucky enough to be present no matter the arena, watch his effort sail through the rim, as easily as depositing a letter in a mailbox.
In the last week, we have borne witness to two diametrically opposing yet clear examples of efficiency. Last Friday, Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a single quarter against the Sacramento Kings, breaking an NBA record jointly held previously by George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony. His ruthless shooting, 13-13 in all, slammed the door on the Kings in what had been a close contest. Several days later, at Super Bowl Media Day, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks conducted a full-scale display in performance art, pirouetting with reporters, fielding questions and answering them all the same way: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” His own unrelenting strategy captivated some and enraged others, and, like Thompson before him, sent the internet into a frenzy, triggering all sorts of ostensible #hottakes, including, I suppose, this one. But which outright disregard for others was more methodical?
The NBA announced its All-Star starters this week, with a certain pair of Spanish hermanos at the forefront. Interestingly but not surprisingly, Steph Curry beat out LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the highest vote-getter, and the Eastern Conference has an entirely new backcourt for the first time since 2000. Elsewhere, Kobe Bryant, destroyer of efficiency ratings, has become Kobe Bryant, destroyer of his own rotator cuff, and LaMarcus Aldridge’s injury has the Blazers reeling.
I’ve avoided this for so long. I ignored it like a ne’er-do-well roommate, years behind on his rent but always at the forefront of craft IPA and porter trends that cost more than a cigarette addiction in New York City. Speaking of, the apple has truly gone rotten in Madison Square Garden, as your New York Knickerbockers have plummeted to a new low. “But the cap space!” you say. I know. I know. It’s always the cap space, until it’s not. Elsewhere, the best team in the Eastern Conference (which is sort of like being the best dissenter in a Soviet gulag, but still) is up for sale, and the Pistons bring new meaning to the phrase “addition by subtraction.”
Courtesy of vinclusive.com
After months of agonizing anticipation, during which we filled time with other allegedly important sporting events and Mad Men binges on Netflix, the 2014-’15 NBA regular season begins tonight. A three-game slate eases us back into basketball this evening, and there are many important questions surrounding each team, the answers to which will dictate the course of the season. How will the new-look Cavaliers fit together? For how much longer will Rajon Rondo remain a Boston Celtic? When will Kevin Durant return from injury, and what will he look like? [Insert literally anything] Derrick Rose? What about Kawhi Leonard’s contract situation and “the Spurs way”? Is the triangle a total crock of grade-A bull fertilizer, spread below the floor of Madison Square Garden ahead of the stadium’s demolition and the subsequent establishment of an actual garden in its place?
All that, we will know in due time. What we won’t know is what we don’t think about. Let’s take a moment to consider the impossible, that which could never conceivably happen in today’s National Basketball Association. Then let’s never think about any of these things again.
Courtesy of USA Today
As far as measures of retribution are concerned, this NBA Finals went off without a hitch. The Heat lost to the heat before losing to the Spurs. Which one was more impactful will be Twitter fodder for months to come, though the answer is truly (painfully?) obvious. Tim Duncan re-asserted his claim as the best player of his generation, as well as his astute normcore brilliance. Kawhi Leonard has become the Duncan to Duncan’s David Robinson, hopefully. LeBron James has some serious pondering ahead of him. Basketball is fun.
One of the most consistently entertaining teams in the league this season has been the Golden State Warriors, with the long-range bombs of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, as well as the lockdown defense and all-around excellence of Andre Iguodala, contributing to the spectacle. The sixth seed in the mighty Western Conference will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, which looked like a deceivingly even matchup on paper until a rib injury removed key cog Andrew Bogut from the lineup. Elsewhere, I promise this is the last time I talk about the New York Knickerbockers basketball franchise until the end of the playoffs. Also, the Pacers are in dire need of a renaissance from both Paul George and Roy Hibbert if they want to make their date against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.