Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
The most influential player in the 2018 NBA playoffs has yet to attempt a shot. I wish I could claim that I was referring to Joel Embiid, the man currently known as the Phantom of the Process. Embiid clearly has the potential to place near the top of any list of “important” players, but the absurdly athletic and constantly entertaining center still has only regular season accomplishments to his name. Besides that fact, the most influential player I was referring to has arguably cast such a long shadow over the sport, that his performance over the past three years seems to have inspired the league’s young seven footers to work on their long distance shooting as much as their post games. With apologies to the process, I’m talking about Steph Curry.
Curry has been missing from the action long enough that the Houston Rockets closed the gap to become near co-favorites to win the title. The Warriors have only lost one playoff game out of their last 19. Yet, FiveThirtyEight, while leaning (too?) heavily on regular season data, has only just moved them from seventh to third in their ELO rankings. Back-to-back blowouts of their weakened rivals from San Antonio have barely jogged the culture’s collective short memory.
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.
Suffering from a deafness which plagued him over the final three decades of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven explored new and innovative areas of musical theory which sometimes left him in controversial straits with critics. Having already composed countless quartets and sonatas as well as several symphonies, Beethoven continued to push the bounds of sound through his late period, often incorporating the influences of Bach, Handel and his immediate predecessor as foremost composer in the world, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Until his death in 1827, Beethoven strove to perfect the sounds and styles of the time which produced him.
On Sunday, two NBA title contenders, each by an MVP candidate, met in Houston for the second and final time in the regular season. The team that prevailed, the Houston Rockets, did so in much the same fashion as they have done all year: by adhering to their particular brand of the NBA’s prevailing style, launching as many threes as possible and, when that wasn’t available, getting to the rim for high percentage shots and foul opportunities. At the eye of the Rockets’ storm is James Harden, high-volume wing-turned-obscenely efficient point guard, a scoring machine in either case.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images via the New York Times
Alright, settle down. Have a seat, take a five. Can we just take a five, please? Put your feet up for a while and relax. Especially you, Kobe. You’ve had more than enough to last you a lifetime. Now that the NBA’s regular season has drawn to a close, we all have a moment to catch our collective breath and reflect on what has just happened, which: what has just happened?
The Golden State Warriors have reset our perceptions of what basketball is and what can be accomplished within its strict confines. In particular, Steph Curry has been a supernova among supernovas; along with seemingly every other forum featuring a human being, a pair of eyes, a computer and a relative understanding of the game of basketball, we have covered them both extensively here already. The single most emblematic action this team routinely commits is the very play setting the standard for the league as it is now, the three-point shot.
Fantasia 2000/Walt Disney Pictures
By 1924, American popular music was undergoing a systematic shift. Going were the days of classical dance hall music, with it the borrowed waltzes and concertos which had for so long dominated musical thought and exploration. Polyrhythms and improvisation found their way into compositions with alarming regularity via the African influences from port cities like New Orleans, which many cite as the birthplace of jazz. Perhaps the most emblematic composition of that time, and one which stakes a claim as the most important piece° of American music ever, arrived via George Gershwin, sans his brother Ira, in the form of a commissioned work that, if the composer is to be believed, was written in only three weeks’ time.
“Rhapsody in Blue” opened on February 12, 1924 in a concert at New York’s Aeolian Hall. Mainstream critics left the afternoon showcase confused, with New York Tribune critic Lawrence Gilman saying of the piece, “Weep over the lifelessness of the melody and harmony, so derivative, so stale, so inexpressive!” By 1927, the recording from Paul Whiteman’s band had sold over one million copies. Perhaps related, the Tribune went under in 1966.