Let's Be Specific About Stuff

Myth-ing The Point.

When I took an assignment to write a piece on the ‘Best Incubation Environments For NBA Talent’ (from a legitimate sports network, no less), I kinda rolled my eyes like they’d just asked me to write a supplemental chapter for a Malcolm Gladwell paperback. (Is it just me or does Gladwell not remind you of some BBC nature doc where the monkey’s examining the hard shelled fruit before trying to crack it open. He’s perpetually holding the bewildering coconut of talent up to the sunlight in the hopes that he’ll find a way at that sweet pulpy nectar of innate ability at the center. Just me? Alright.)

Are we mostly clinging to the aberrant few - the Jeremy Lin ‘outliers’ - to keep us believing in a miraculous narrative? (I’m aware that’s the opposite of the ‘Outliers’ thesis. I did read/skim it. What..? Fine. I bought it to sit on the shelf and impress the ladies. Happy?)

I just thought it was a perfectly pretentious way of looking at the idea of talent and ability, y’know. That it already seemed most obvious that star athletes come from the places you’d think they do;  driven by the most desperate, competitive environments you can conjure. It’s all right there ‘in the ghetto’, right? You got your grasping, clawing mass of humanity clinging to the promise of transcending their station in life through athletics and, in the end, we squeeze the elite in through the narrow coliseum doorway, like a sports-themed playdough fun factory with super realistic muscle molds.

Case closed. Redundant sports article averted. Who thinks we’ve earned an early lunch Schwarma?

Then, as I was driving later that afternoon (not for Schwarma), I slowed my car to a roll enrapt by the intensity of a driveway pick-up game in one of the most affluent Toronto neighborhoods. Two teenage Jewish kids were D-ing each other up in off-setting home and away Jeremy Lin Knicks jerseys. They were jab stepping and dipping their yamulke covered heads down to deflect hand checks and forearm shivers. They  bounced each other off  the BMW and Audi 4X4s that made up a makeshift sideline;  their arena of upmarket SUVs and interlocking pavement was - no exaggeration - speckled in semetic blood and fluids. I could make out a nostril packed with dark red wadded kleenex. (They gave no quarter to one another but I found myself wondering if those Jewish beenie hats come in a Nike Dry-Fit material and if there were special sports yamulkes that fastened more securely to your skull? Like the mystery of Indiana Jones’ fedora, how were they not falling off constantly? Nike, get on that! Adhesive sports yamulkes.)

All I’d been thinking about was how hackneyed the Jeremy Lin spin had become in such a short spin cycle. I loved the story as much as anyone but the narrative had been milked. His privileged Ivy league beginnings weren’t a sign of some paradigm shift; Jeremy Lin was made more identifiable, more endearing, more an everyman hero for his unorthodox creation myth but anyone searching for more blood from that stone was myth-ing the point.

After white youth awkwardly appropriated urban basketball culture and hip hop in one ‘big gulp’, they might be eager to grab onto a guy that comes from their world but it don’t make it so. Grab that comet by the tail if you will but, by the time that star has passed through the atmosphere it’ll have been burned down to the size of a softball. And then, on the court out my car window Abraham begat Isaac.. with a barrage of hard-earned contested jumpshots… hand in his face and everything. And, like  it says in the bible, Isaac took Abraham to the basket, finishing through the contact.

I had turned down my music to eat up this epic battle, listening to the wet thud of one teen absorbing a blow and going to the left hand with surprising deftness. I came to the conclusion that there was nothing so abnormal about what I was witnessing;  that there was a long and legitimate legacy of good jewish basketball players.

That people had been making sports yamulkes (or Kippahs), but mostly for novelty purposes. (Real jewish ballers just sweated up their everyday beenies, I think.)

And, that I’d therefore spent way too much time lost in a trance watching two otherwise unremarkable, sweaty teenage boys in creepy silence from my car window as they wrestled and jostled with one another in what should have been an intimately intense scrimmage before dinner. So, I caught myself before anyone called neighbourhood watch and I sped away to spy again another day, and maybe go get that Schwarma after all…. perving apparently works up quite an appetite.

(I’ll post the less entertaining basketball piece I wrote here in the near future.)

Made For This.

I could never pull for Michael Jordan. I always chose to side with the the earnest and awkward super-athletes, like a Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. (Bucktooth, balding and gangly but he got it done.)

Still, for me Kobe is must see TV. It’s really more akin to the aesthetic appreciation I have for a striking piece of art or an undeniably beautiful person.

He’s arguably worse than Jordan in his pedigree and history, less charming, more stand-offish and more remote as a human being. Kobe’s Dad spent his childhood giving him the hard-ass basketball drill sergeant bit and that, in concert with singular genetics, has yielded the most beautiful basketball player of my lifetime. The brightest star (yeah, move over Magic) on the most rarified franchise in the modern era (yeah, move over old-timey Celtics). Still, regardless of how that might all fall into a front-runner narrative, putting me at odds with any enjoyment of Kobe Bryant… I do so enjoy the fluid way he plays.

I do so love watching Kobe Bryant.

(When I did a podcast with author James Boice - who wrote MVP, a brilliant fictional account of an NBA prodigy from conception to champion who might as well have been named Dobe Dryant - James brought in the clips of Kobe putting up 81 Points against Toronto. Apparently, he liked to meditate to the repetitive sound of tickled twine.)

And though more impressive physical specimen may and likely will step into the pro sports arena and into the public consciousness, it will be many moons before we see anything quite like Kobe.

Why Your Team Needs Its Own NBAsshole

(I wrote this originally for a big basketball site - that shall remain nameless - to break down the common element missing from current top-tier NBA rosters… basically, super aggressive sociopaths. The version they sent back was cut for excess profanity and first-hand anecdotes that seemed to “portray well-known players in an unflattering light.” So, I’ve published the uncut, uncensored version here.)

"Opinions are like assholes, everybody needs one. Otherwise shit’s gonna get backed up."

It is my opinion that your NBA team desperately needs their very own asshole to do all the shit work. Not that swingman you’re convinced will spread the floor and open up the floor on offence by knocking down corner threes. Not the change of pace, back-up point guard to ignite your second unit. No, what your team desperately needs is an elbower of chops… a twister of titties.. a biter of fingers and, occasionally, a kicker of dicks.

Sure, they should be able to stick an open jump shot every now and then, or corral a rebound and throw a spot-on outlet pass - they must be professional basketball players. We’re not shopping for hockey goons here - but, more than any of that, they need to have that certain something sinister in their games;  ”the eye of the asshole”, if you will. (Yes, yes, this is where a ‘brown eye’ joke might go. Can we carry on like grown-ups now? Grown-ups talking all serious-like about the virtues and value of sports-brand sociopaths.)

Not to belabour the point but, I’m talking about the kind of dickhole that might illicit your actually spitting at your television screen when he slides his foot under your team’s best jump shooter. The kind of twat that’ll hip check your spindly star guard into the scorer’s table, intent on putting him on the shelf for the season. The kind of unquestionable cunt that - were it not for the cover of the craziness and questionable legality sports allows between its lines - would be shunned by society and possibly incarcerated for his clinically sociopathic disregard for the welfare and well being of others.

Think about a year when your hometown team was at its best. I’d all but guarantee, there was a guy on that team that only the home crowd could stomach; some horrible human being who it happens could also play ball a little bit. It’s possible - as with oft-outed asshole and Hitler-moustache sympathizer Michael Jordan - that this guy was your best and most talented player. It’s equally possible they were more of a blunt instrument, a la Charles Oakley, that existed mostly to fuck up any folks who try taking a run at your franchise player. Either way, that a-hole was a vital cog in a championship machine.

For me personally, the embodiment of this caliber of cockhead was Isiah Thomas. I stood not feet away from Isiah most every night for my first year with the Raptors and I was consistently awed. He’d stand in the tunnel watching the game from the traditional perch of the high-profile GM - away from the prying eyes and spilling beers - and though he’d occasionally deign to make a comment or share a joke with my co-worker Clay, he never shared much more than a rare stink-eye with me.

I’m not all that choked up about it. I wasn’t a fan in any respect. I didn’t want an autograph, nor a life-affirming handshake. (Maybe a potentially lucrative butt pat that I could parlay into a future sexual harassment settlement.) When I was younger, I’d watched Isiah’s Pistons pretty much dismantle my boyhood idol Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trailblazer’s in the early 90’s. Thereafter, I kinda hated him as an acknowledged all-time player, an all-world talent and all-round mean motherfucker. This exposure only confirmed those suspicions. He had the “aura” that great athletes are often said to have about them;  really just an unspoken and outwardly projected ‘fuck you’ that hangs in the air around them, like an acrid cologne cloud. If there were an antithesis to approachability, this is that.

Myself and another white co-worker oft remarked how he rarely acknowledged lower rung white dudes but, always seemed to have hugs and secret handshakes for our black colleagues. Now don’t shit yourselves, I’m not writing some salacious bit about Isaiah Thomas being racist.* I think it seems just as likely that he hated all sorts of people without discrimination. I’m not suggesting he was a racist so much as a broader contention that he was and ever has been an all-star caliber asshole. (Moreover I should add, if other whities ever got conflated or crossed up with any holdover hate-on for one-time teammate Bill Laimbeer, who could blame him? I didn’t much wanna be white after watching that pale, doughy, professional dick-puncher.)

(*I think Thomas’ racism is well-travelled territory. Take his back and forth bullshit in an effort to brand Larry Bird as overrated bourne of his carrying the torch for white basketball well wishers or, though he unquestionably should’ve been, listen to Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler confirm that Isiah undeniably dicked himself out of a Dream Team roster spot. Incidentally dicking up my Dream Team t-shirt in the process, leaving us all with an awkward Christian Laettner fucking up the otherwise steady stream of hall of famers.(Sooo, close to an unbroken Murder’s Row of bad mother fuckers) To the Isiah is racist rant, I might only add this thought experiment;  of the big name players signed, acquired or championed in Thomas’ time heading team front offices, how many were white guys and how many were more.. let’s say, athletic and full of unrealized potential? Ooooooh, racism tightrope swaying beneath my feet.)

ANECDOTAL 20 SECOND TIME-OUT: I remember one specific instance that still makes me smile. Though I’d rarely go to Raptor community youth events and basketball clinics, I went to one thinly attended kid’s clinic in the early going where Isiah himself was giving a talk and walk through for drills with the children of some well-to-do Toronto families. I wasn’t working the event - nor was I invited - but I knew, if Isiah didn’t much care for us white underlings, I had to watch him coach up a gaggle of privileged white kids.

Let’s be real, nobody likes wealthy white people. Sometimes I see well-to-do white kids leaving the playground on their shiny bi- or tricycles and I want so badly to punch them in their still developing mouths, just to take ‘em down a notch. I feel like it’s the punch I won’t get to throw when they finally arrive at their Fortune 500 CEO office or their skull and bones legacy contacts make them Secretary of the Interior. But of course, I never do hit that fast cycling five year old, and so I maintain my right to walk the streets freely and eat and sleep at my leisure.

Anyway, I brought a friend to watch this particular clinic with me and spent the whole time trying to crack him up by doing that grade school routine where you watch through the glass from outside the room and make up a mock speech to fill the silent moving lips of the teacher inside. In this case, I filled in Isiah’s 0wn St. Crispin’s Day speech;  an impassioned Braveheart/Gladiator rallying cry made up of empty, puffed up nonsense;

When I was a child, I balled as a child… but when I became a man, I was all mouth guards and sharpened elbows. I come from the mean streets and I will rabbit punch any one of you in your pubescent mouths and sleep well that night on my million thread count pillows, filled with black swan feathers and black panther afro clippings.

It all basically amounted to what I’m sure their father’s and frat brothers would’ve told them in their Freemason/Illuminati orientation ceremony. ie;

Don’t be afraid to step on a few necks to get where you wanna go next.

Cute. Rhymes a little.

END TIME-OUT, RESUME GAME PLAY.

So then, I started thinking how many of the guys I worshipped in my adolescence - Clyde Drexler, Chris WebberKenny Anderson, to name just a few - would I actually want to go to war with? How many of these smile and sizzle players could you win with?

So, here’s where I change the fortunes of a few NBA franchises with a list of some scrappers, a-holes and dickheads that I think might be able to put them over the top. It’s not one of those fake trade, dream pick-up, rosterbation deals. In fact, as you’ll see, some of these scenarios defy all natural laws but, I guarantee your contending team would come out smelling like championship champagne. So, what do the contenders need?

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - The Ghost Of G/F Bruce Bowen

I know Bruce Bowen’s not dead (?) but, this fantastic fictional scenario could all kick off with Bowen getting knifed by a latino gang banger after undercutting the dude in a game of sports bar pop-a-shot. (That this doesn’t sound too far fetched is a testament to Bruce Bowen’s timeless dickishness.) From here, I see this going down like one of those Angels In The Outfield-type movies where Bowen’s spirit possesses different mild-mannered members of the Thunder throughout the game.

You Oklahomans say you want another scorer;  a Ray Allen type shooter to spread the floor. I say, you really want Westbrook to stare down at his hands after he feels the cold chill of Ghost Bruce run through his body. SMASH CUT TO: Russell Westbrook ninja kicking Kobe Bryant in the face as Kobe tries to blow by on a pump fake. Serge Ibaka just “isn’t feeling himself” according to the announcers as he repeatedly knees Chris Paul in the forehead as he dives on the floor. Maybe just a bit of Bowen’s patented “sliding foot defense” out of an otherwise amiable Kevin Durant in a timely moment against Dirk Nowitski that pushes them past the Mavericks into the Finals.

Then, of course, the movie ends with Bowen leaving them to find their own inner arse-hole in game 7 of the Finals. Durant and Westbrook both waving tearful goodbyes to Bowen’s apparition as they head down the tunnel to finish the second half and a translucent Bruce Bowen disappears into a blinding red haze that we can safely assume to be hell beckoning. (What? Where’d you think he’d end up?)

SAN ANTONIO SPURS - G Jimmy Chitwood

You might not think of this unathletic 1950’s two-guard as a upper tier a-hole but, just one look into his darkened dead shark eyes and you’ll be convinced that he’s nails. With the Spurs, they consistently put their funds into fundamentals. (In truth, if I had a screen grab and vid of the old guy I just played pick-up with at the Jewish Community Center, I’d have slid him onto San Antonio’s roster.) I just see this as the most perfect fit from a pure basketball perspective but, then there’s my belief that Jimmy Chitwood is secretly fighting some darkness and demons - abusive father? - and wouldn’t hesitate to drive his Chuck Taylor’s straight up your ass if it meant winning the game.

In truth, you only need listen Hopper rap on the Big O and Hoosiers and you’ll feel like this little scrapper is best suited to help this stiff creaky Spurs team defy all odds and reason to fell the other-worldly athletes of Miami and Oklahoma City, etc. That final game in Hoosiers plays out like the weave-running, old-timey Spurs against the high-flying Miami Heat. In other words, for David to defeat Goliath he’d have to be a bit of a dill hole.

Can’t you see Chitwood meandering out in seemingly slow-motion with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli to run the picket fence on a bewildered Heat team. He looks over his shoulder at Popovich and flatly says; “I’ll make it.” Swish! Chitwood nails a 14 footer to take the series and the entire team break their brittle bones in the ensuing celebratory dog pile, like something out of Unbreakable.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - F Kevin Garnett

I do mean present day Kevin Garnett. He (check the 1:00 mark of the above linked clip) is the kind of careless penis puncher of which I previously spoke. Moreover, while Chris Paul might already have down his equivalent of Garnett’s murder eyes, the best thing Blake Griffin can do - if he’s going to continue to crown dudes with INSANE dunks thusly - is to learn the prohibitive scary potential murderer aura that’ll make defenders think twice before undercutting or bridging him and cutting short his sky walking streak.

You know it’s gotta happen. Somebody’s gonna try to take out Griffin and, in so doing, punch the historically collapsable Clippers in the mouth. Let Garnett play with a great point guard for his last go round and at best, he’s rejuvenated a bit. Worst case scenario, he’s still of use with his mid-range game, sense of spacing and all of his uncanny capacities on defence give the upstart Clippers the next level nastiness needed to make a push past the Lakers. Ultimately, the Clippers won’t have the feel of a championship team until they face down their big brother Lakers. Garnett comes in and I honestly believe that what he lacks in athleticism now, he more than makes up for in willingness to do anything from punching Kobe Bryant in the colon to effectively framing him for sexual harassment. We can all agree, Garnett is the type of guy that’d happily bear false witness to win another ring.

LOS ANGELS LAKERS - G Teen Wolf

The only reasonable backcourt mate for Kobe Bryant, really. If you were broken up by the kiboshed Chris Paul deal, this is the 80’s party mix to soothe your howling tortured soul. Get ready for the mamba and the wolf. Go on and print up the shirts.

It might go against basketball logic to suggest the Lakers should try to run with teams like the Thunder or Heat but, I think they could do well by going small and lupine for stretches. Give Kobe a teammate that’ll let him leak out on the break, that can routinely hit half court shots and will, ultimately, piss all over every corner of the arena;  effectively marking the Staples Center as Lakers territory.. “I piss in your still musky corner of the training room, Chris Paul.”

When was LA at it’s most obnoxiously successful? Answer; during the lake show of the 80’s. I’d say, since acheiving those heights, LA is more jaded and easily bored than any fan base in basketball. What spectacle could pull folks back to where they were at the height of the Forum? A supernatural beast (very big with Hollywood in the under-25 demo) more vicious and unpredictably violent than a pre-World Peace, fan throttling Ron Artest. (Tell me LA’s not pretty disappointed to have been denied a few Artest freak outs. Going into the crowd to throw fists at an action star in the stands. An entire town collectively crossing their fingers that Artest might run into the lower bowl and start wailing on Vin Diesel; “And this… is for The Chronicles Of Riddick!” Smack.)

Besides, picture the Pau Gasol and Teen Wolf pairing (pictured left) running the pick and roll while Kobe rests late in the 3rd quarter. Take a whiff as they breeze by you, rest of the league. Smell that? It’s the smell of success… it smells kinda like a wet dog given a bulgari cologne bath.

What do you think makes Pau so perpetually mopey and hangdog? He misses his Spanish national teammates. Taking breaks from practice to whip up some parking lot Paella. (Y’know, traditional tapas tailgating.) Maybe having a little locker room siesta leaning back in matching Sombreros. You add in an understanding of fur-induced itchiness and I think Pau starts to pick up his game with Teen Wolf by his side. In fact, I think Gasol would start to play allot better if he’d just stop shaving his cheeks and forehead and give over to his lychen nature. (*Recent point guard pick-up Ramon Sessions is a nice solution to many of this club’s issues but, how many times have you seen him defiantly spin the ball on his furry finger mid-possession?)

CHICAGO BULLS - G/F Stephen Jackson

The Bulls already made their play for the veteran two-guard with Rip Hamilton. Unfortunately, the long, lanky, loopy Captain Jack is the winner they really needed. As it happens, he’s leaving the equivalent of a trail of farts as he exits the locker room in Milwaukee, so I’m sure they’d just as soon get rid of that shit. What’s most often lost though in Stephen Jackson’s being such a volatile fruit loop with a hair trigger temper is… he’s a winning volatile fruit loop with a hair trigger temper.

Stephen Jackson has played significant roles for winning incarnations of the Pacers (betwixt punching wildly at fans), Spurs (whilst kicking opponents and the odd cameraman) and Warriors (I dunno, maybe he showed his dick to a security guard or something) but, what gets lost in all of that mess is the part where Stephen Jackson was winning games on winning teams.

Now, the truth is you’d really far prefer a still-irrationally confident but spry 2008 Captain Jack but, unfortunately for the Bulls, you take what you can get. I may only see Jackson as a replacement for a James Johnson-type but, this is a guy who’ll punch you in the throat when no one’s looking and then drift out to the corner to stick a three. What the Bulls need is a mean shooter with no conscience, and that is very likely what’s going on Stephen Jackson’s tombstone. (I mean his Tombstone Pizza. His pre-game ritual is to write stuff out in onions and peppers and then eat his own words.)

MIAMI HEAT - F Angry LeBron James

No new pieces are necessary for the Heat to win the NBA title right now. In fact, I think the last thing they need is another player to work into their rotation and to integrate in this shortened season. No, what the Heat need is a singularly motivated super star. Not a distracted or disinterested LeBron mind you but, a super pissed version of this super specimen would guarantee a title. (Note: Angry LeBron pictured in Cavs jersey, right, as no known photographic evidence could be found of angry, scary LeBron in Heat jersey.)

Now, I think we all know the answer here.Sure it might seem a little unsavoury but, what the Heat need is a slick talking Frenchman to openly make out with LeBron’s mother during game breaks in the arena, or perhaps a swarthy South American to finger LeBron’s fiancee. (Obviously, that last scenario can’t be as overt. NBA arenas work hard to maintain a family atmosphere, we can’t have the TNT Thursday night cameras cutting away to some Brazilian stink fingering the future Mrs. James. Hubie Brown is left with no choice but to give his break down; “See what you gotta like here is how Umberto goes under the screen of the picnic blanket they brought in.. unorthodox.. and then, the defensive hand of the unsuspecting girl comes over top and he makes a confident move to push down into the front of the pants. That’s a big time pro move.”)

Filthy and off-putting though that may have seemed, for any of you who’ve seen More Than A Game (and I recommend you do), you would’ve seen how a young and driven LeBron James seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder that has since become dislodged. High School LeBron wore a bit of a sour puss and seemed to reserve the smile and warmth for his teammates. Maybe, the insight to be gleaned from this documentary is that pre-pro LeBron used the absence of his father and the basic needs of he and his mother to push himself to stratospheric levels.

Maybe, the Heat’s in-house arena entertainment should just flash images of LeBron’s fatherless christmases, piping in tthe odd, almost inaudible whisper under the in-game music; “Daddy wasn’t there.” It might all seem a sinister or draconian way of motivating a player but then, give the Heat that angry, driven version of LeBron and we all win. Just cue up the most compelling and entertaining NBA playoffs since early 90’s Michael Jordan. The NBA playoffs; “Where family issues get exorcised.”

As to the the other “contenders”….;

(I hope those quotes seem appropriately sarcastic to convey how little I believe in these teams.)

DALLAS: I’m sorry but, you’re already an unnatural army of decaying zombies. How is Jason Kidd still ambulatory anyway? He always seems to have some new, young, attractive wife or girlfriend but he looks like a middle-aged Hoggle from Labyrinth. Are we certain he’s not mesmerizing them with shiny charms to date, marry and ultimately steal their bone marrow and stem cells?

NEW YORK: Shit, I was totally gonna conjure some bullshit about an unathletic american-asian point guard with moxie who might rekindle the flame of New York Knicks basketball and capture the imagination and interest of the sporting world but, I couldn’t find a picture or story online to support that ridiculous thesis.

ORLANDO: I dunno, maybe a Magic pizza bagel that imbues a cherubic Hedo Turkoglu with tiny wings and an archer’s accuracy to play out of his mind? Translation: It would take an actual magical event for Dwight Howard to win a title with this line-up. The Orlando Magic are a regular season illusion that will have the curtain pulled back on them by a deeper, more complete team come play-off time.

Everybody else… I hear from ‘basketball people in the know’ that it’s a really deep draft, so there ya go.

Still, if the guy sitting at the top of the board was set to be an all-timer.. a franchise changer… a super-skilled once-in-a-generation athlete… it’d all be for naught if he wasn’t also a bit of a sociopath. And, if that unique constellation of attributes was embodied in one guy, we’d all have heard of him already… he’d quite simply have won more than everyone else. (Anthony Davis, do you have it in you to hate?)

ADDENDUM:

Finally, I must make good on a promise I made for my own home town team that shall not be named until they’re re-named (rhymes with Toronto ‘Craptors’);

TORONTO R@&$#*S - PF Charles Oakley

GM Bryan Colangelo said that his blueprint for the initial international rebuild of the Toronto pro basketball franchise (there’s gotta be a less wordy way of keeping up this boyish nickname boycott) effectively came off the rails when all-purpose power forward and instant fan favourite Jorge Garbajosa went down late in his first season with what was ultimately a career crippling injury.

(side note: Garbajosa became a personal all-time favourite when - in that old world sports way that’s now become mostly mythology - it was discovered that he’d sometimes sneak a cigarette in the tunnels, in between the action or before a second half. Mario Lemieux did this for years in the prime of his career and then proceeded to beat Hodgkin’s disease to solidify his place in the sports pantheon and speed the inevitable erecting of statues in his honor. Or, at the very least, it assured that any Lemieux statues would be incomplete without the added design feature of an ashtray built into the palm of his fist pumping hockey glove. Aren’t you down with a smirking Lemieux statue that catches your ash as you puff and shiver your way through a Pittsburgh winter night out front of the arena.)

Colangelo would likely admit that Garbajosa was the international Charles Oakley analog he was desperate for as a key ingredient in his championship souffle. (Same versatility, grit and mid-range game as Oak without quite the same amount of mouth punching.) Now, that attempt to bake a championship pie was rehashed and scaled down to a tartlet made with day old eggs and under ripe backyard apples.

So, as Garbajosa is now an impossibility, I submit that what Toronto needs to get back on track is another shot in the mouth from Oak. Open wide, undisciplined swingmen and soft interior defenders, here it cums comes.

To be clear, though prime of his career, premier defender/enforcer and agitator Charles Oakley would solve many an issue with a weak and character deficient Toronto roster, I’m actually advocating the signing of the…. wait for it… 49 year old Oak of today. From friendly poker games on the team charter to the second night of a back-to-back on the road mid-season, what this team doesn’t do is take it personally and slap a guy in the mouth if it’s called for. (And even when it’s not.) If only for the ways in which he’d surely hold court in the locker room like a greying, world wearied anti-hero from a 70’s blaxploitation film (the walkin’, jive-talkin’, dice and dynamite throwin’ incarnation of Dolemite), a Charles Oakley-type is a necessity. And who’s more a Charles Oakley-type than Charles Oakley? (That’s actually a genuine question hidden inside a throw-away line. Who is the modern, still vital, version of Oakley? Garnett?

The point has been made many a time by NBA columnists and professional opinion conjurers that players won’t just offer their ear or acquiesce in any respect unless the player trying to lead them can play the game at a high level. The Toronto franchise is, as always, starving for top-tier talent but, it doesn’t follow that this player will have leadership qualities (see the Vince Carter and Chris Bosh years). Until that basketball Jesus shows up - almost certainly through some draft miracle with the lack of desirability to playing in this market - Toronto will have to hold onto the hope that they’ll find a sociopath to fill out their roster;  one with the stones to slap some sense into their star player and the skills to thread a bounce pass and stick a 14-footer.

Oh, Wherefore Oak Thou?

Why Your Team Needs Its Own NBAsshole

(I wrote this originally for a big basketball site - that shall remain nameless - to break down the common element missing from current top-tier NBA rosters… basically, super aggressive sociopaths. The version they sent back was cut for excess profanity and first-hand anecdotes that seemed to “portray well-known players in an unflattering light.” So, I’ve published the uncut, uncensored version here.)

"Opinions are like assholes, everybody needs one. Otherwise shit’s gonna get backed up."

It is my opinion that your NBA team desperately needs their very own asshole to do all the shit work. Not that swingman you’re convinced will spread the floor and open up the floor on offence by knocking down corner threes. Not the change of pace, back-up point guard to ignite your second unit. No, what your team desperately needs is an elbower of chops… a twister of titties.. a biter of fingers and, occasionally, a kicker of dicks.

Sure, they should be able to stick an open jump shot every now and then, or corral a rebound and throw a spot-on outlet pass - they must be professional basketball players. We’re not shopping for hockey goons here - but, more than any of that, they need to have that certain something sinister in their games;  ”the eye of the asshole”, if you will. (Yes, yes, this is where a ‘brown eye’ joke might go. Can we carry on like grown-ups now? Grown-ups talking all serious-like about the virtues and value of sports-brand sociopaths.)

Not to belabour the point but, I’m talking about the kind of dickhole that might illicit your actually spitting at your television screen when he slides his foot under your team’s best jump shooter. The kind of twat that’ll hip check your spindly star guard into the scorer’s table, intent on putting him on the shelf for the season. The kind of unquestionable cunt that - were it not for the cover of the craziness and questionable legality sports allows between its lines - would be shunned by society and possibly incarcerated for his clinically sociopathic disregard for the welfare and well being of others.

Think about a year when your hometown team was at its best. I’d all but guarantee, there was a guy on that team that only the home crowd could stomach; some horrible human being who it happens could also play ball a little bit. It’s possible - as with oft-outed asshole and Hitler-moustache sympathizer Michael Jordan - that this guy was your best and most talented player. It’s equally possible they were more of a blunt instrument, a la Charles Oakley, that existed mostly to fuck up any folks who try taking a run at your franchise player. Either way, that a-hole was a vital cog in a championship machine.

For me personally, the embodiment of this caliber of cockhead was Isiah Thomas. I stood not feet away from Isiah most every night for my first year with the Raptors and I was consistently awed. He’d stand in the tunnel watching the game from the traditional perch of the high-profile GM - away from the prying eyes and spilling beers - and though he’d occasionally deign to make a comment or share a joke with my co-worker Clay, he never shared much more than a rare stink-eye with me.

I’m not all that choked up about it. I wasn’t a fan in any respect. I didn’t want an autograph, nor a life-affirming handshake. (Maybe a potentially lucrative butt pat that I could parlay into a future sexual harassment settlement.) When I was younger, I’d watched Isiah’s Pistons pretty much dismantle my boyhood idol Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trailblazer’s in the early 90’s. Thereafter, I kinda hated him as an acknowledged all-time player, an all-world talent and all-round mean motherfucker. This exposure only confirmed those suspicions. He had the “aura” that great athletes are often said to have about them;  really just an unspoken and outwardly projected ‘fuck you’ that hangs in the air around them, like an acrid cologne cloud. If there were an antithesis to approachability, this is that.

Myself and another white co-worker oft remarked how he rarely acknowledged lower rung white dudes but, always seemed to have hugs and secret handshakes for our black colleagues. Now don’t shit yourselves, I’m not writing some salacious bit about Isaiah Thomas being racist.* I think it seems just as likely that he hated all sorts of people without discrimination. I’m not suggesting he was a racist so much as a broader contention that he was and ever has been an all-star caliber asshole. (Moreover I should add, if other whities ever got conflated or crossed up with any holdover hate-on for one-time teammate Bill Laimbeer, who could blame him? I didn’t much wanna be white after watching that pale, doughy, professional dick-puncher.)

(*I think Thomas’ racism is well-travelled territory. Take his back and forth bullshit in an effort to brand Larry Bird as overrated bourne of his carrying the torch for white basketball well wishers or, though he unquestionably should’ve been, listen to Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler confirm that Isiah undeniably dicked himself out of a Dream Team roster spot. Incidentally dicking up my Dream Team t-shirt in the process, leaving us all with an awkward Christian Laettner fucking up the otherwise steady stream of hall of famers.(Sooo, close to an unbroken Murder’s Row of bad mother fuckers) To the Isiah is racist rant, I might only add this thought experiment;  of the big name players signed, acquired or championed in Thomas’ time heading team front offices, how many were white guys and how many were more.. let’s say, athletic and full of unrealized potential? Ooooooh, racism tightrope swaying beneath my feet.)

ANECDOTAL 20 SECOND TIME-OUT: I remember one specific instance that still makes me smile. Though I’d rarely go to Raptor community youth events and basketball clinics, I went to one thinly attended kid’s clinic in the early going where Isiah himself was giving a talk and walk through for drills with the children of some well-to-do Toronto families. I wasn’t working the event - nor was I invited - but I knew, if Isiah didn’t much care for us white underlings, I had to watch him coach up a gaggle of privileged white kids.

Let’s be real, nobody likes wealthy white people. Sometimes I see well-to-do white kids leaving the playground on their shiny bi- or tricycles and I want so badly to punch them in their still developing mouths, just to take ‘em down a notch. I feel like it’s the punch I won’t get to throw when they finally arrive at their Fortune 500 CEO office or their skull and bones legacy contacts make them Secretary of the Interior. But of course, I never do hit that fast cycling five year old, and so I maintain my right to walk the streets freely and eat and sleep at my leisure.

Anyway, I brought a friend to watch this particular clinic with me and spent the whole time trying to crack him up by doing that grade school routine where you watch through the glass from outside the room and make up a mock speech to fill the silent moving lips of the teacher inside. In this case, I filled in Isiah’s 0wn St. Crispin’s Day speech;  an impassioned Braveheart/Gladiator rallying cry made up of empty, puffed up nonsense;

When I was a child, I balled as a child… but when I became a man, I was all mouth guards and sharpened elbows. I come from the mean streets and I will rabbit punch any one of you in your pubescent mouths and sleep well that night on my million thread count pillows, filled with black swan feathers and black panther afro clippings.

It all basically amounted to what I’m sure their father’s and frat brothers would’ve told them in their Freemason/Illuminati orientation ceremony. ie;

Don’t be afraid to step on a few necks to get where you wanna go next.

Cute. Rhymes a little.

END TIME-OUT, RESUME GAME PLAY.

So then, I started thinking how many of the guys I worshipped in my adolescence - Clyde Drexler, Chris WebberKenny Anderson, to name just a few - would I actually want to go to war with? How many of these smile and sizzle players could you win with?

So, here’s where I change the fortunes of a few NBA franchises with a list of some scrappers, a-holes and dickheads that I think might be able to put them over the top. It’s not one of those fake trade, dream pick-up, rosterbation deals. In fact, as you’ll see, some of these scenarios defy all natural laws but, I guarantee your contending team would come out smelling like championship champagne. So, what do the contenders need?

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - The Ghost Of G/F Bruce Bowen

I know Bruce Bowen’s not dead (?) but, this fantastic fictional scenario could all kick off with Bowen getting knifed by a latino gang banger after undercutting the dude in a game of sports bar pop-a-shot. (That this doesn’t sound too far fetched is a testament to Bruce Bowen’s timeless dickishness.) From here, I see this going down like one of those Angels In The Outfield-type movies where Bowen’s spirit possesses different mild-mannered members of the Thunder throughout the game.

You Oklahomans say you want another scorer;  a Ray Allen type shooter to spread the floor. I say, you really want Westbrook to stare down at his hands after he feels the cold chill of Ghost Bruce run through his body. SMASH CUT TO: Russell Westbrook ninja kicking Kobe Bryant in the face as Kobe tries to blow by on a pump fake. Serge Ibaka just “isn’t feeling himself” according to the announcers as he repeatedly knees Chris Paul in the forehead as he dives on the floor. Maybe just a bit of Bowen’s patented “sliding foot defense” out of an otherwise amiable Kevin Durant in a timely moment against Dirk Nowitski that pushes them past the Mavericks into the Finals.

Then, of course, the movie ends with Bowen leaving them to find their own inner arse-hole in game 7 of the Finals. Durant and Westbrook both waving tearful goodbyes to Bowen’s apparition as they head down the tunnel to finish the second half and a translucent Bruce Bowen disappears into a blinding red haze that we can safely assume to be hell beckoning. (What? Where’d you think he’d end up?)

SAN ANTONIO SPURS - G Jimmy Chitwood

You might not think of this unathletic 1950’s two-guard as a upper tier a-hole but, just one look into his darkened dead shark eyes and you’ll be convinced that he’s nails. With the Spurs, they consistently put their funds into fundamentals. (In truth, if I had a screen grab and vid of the old guy I just played pick-up with at the Jewish Community Center, I’d have slid him onto San Antonio’s roster.) I just see this as the most perfect fit from a pure basketball perspective but, then there’s my belief that Jimmy Chitwood is secretly fighting some darkness and demons - abusive father? - and wouldn’t hesitate to drive his Chuck Taylor’s straight up your ass if it meant winning the game.

In truth, you only need listen Hopper rap on the Big O and Hoosiers and you’ll feel like this little scrapper is best suited to help this stiff creaky Spurs team defy all odds and reason to fell the other-worldly athletes of Miami and Oklahoma City, etc. That final game in Hoosiers plays out like the weave-running, old-timey Spurs against the high-flying Miami Heat. In other words, for David to defeat Goliath he’d have to be a bit of a dill hole.

Can’t you see Chitwood meandering out in seemingly slow-motion with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli to run the picket fence on a bewildered Heat team. He looks over his shoulder at Popovich and flatly says; “I’ll make it.” Swish! Chitwood nails a 14 footer to take the series and the entire team break their brittle bones in the ensuing celebratory dog pile, like something out of Unbreakable.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - F Kevin Garnett

I do mean present day Kevin Garnett. He (check the 1:00 mark of the above linked clip) is the kind of careless penis puncher of which I previously spoke. Moreover, while Chris Paul might already have down his equivalent of Garnett’s murder eyes, the best thing Blake Griffin can do - if he’s going to continue to crown dudes with INSANE dunks thusly - is to learn the prohibitive scary potential murderer aura that’ll make defenders think twice before undercutting or bridging him and cutting short his sky walking streak.

You know it’s gotta happen. Somebody’s gonna try to take out Griffin and, in so doing, punch the historically collapsable Clippers in the mouth. Let Garnett play with a great point guard for his last go round and at best, he’s rejuvenated a bit. Worst case scenario, he’s still of use with his mid-range game, sense of spacing and all of his uncanny capacities on defence give the upstart Clippers the next level nastiness needed to make a push past the Lakers. Ultimately, the Clippers won’t have the feel of a championship team until they face down their big brother Lakers. Garnett comes in and I honestly believe that what he lacks in athleticism now, he more than makes up for in willingness to do anything from punching Kobe Bryant in the colon to effectively framing him for sexual harassment. We can all agree, Garnett is the type of guy that’d happily bear false witness to win another ring.

LOS ANGELS LAKERS - G Teen Wolf

The only reasonable backcourt mate for Kobe Bryant, really. If you were broken up by the kiboshed Chris Paul deal, this is the 80’s party mix to soothe your howling tortured soul. Get ready for the mamba and the wolf. Go on and print up the shirts.

It might go against basketball logic to suggest the Lakers should try to run with teams like the Thunder or Heat but, I think they could do well by going small and lupine for stretches. Give Kobe a teammate that’ll let him leak out on the break, that can routinely hit half court shots and will, ultimately, piss all over every corner of the arena;  effectively marking the Staples Center as Lakers territory.. “I piss in your still musky corner of the training room, Chris Paul.”

When was LA at it’s most obnoxiously successful? Answer; during the lake show of the 80’s. I’d say, since acheiving those heights, LA is more jaded and easily bored than any fan base in basketball. What spectacle could pull folks back to where they were at the height of the Forum? A supernatural beast (very big with Hollywood in the under-25 demo) more vicious and unpredictably violent than a pre-World Peace, fan throttling Ron Artest. (Tell me LA’s not pretty disappointed to have been denied a few Artest freak outs. Going into the crowd to throw fists at an action star in the stands. An entire town collectively crossing their fingers that Artest might run into the lower bowl and start wailing on Vin Diesel; “And this… is for The Chronicles Of Riddick!” Smack.)

Besides, picture the Pau Gasol and Teen Wolf pairing (pictured left) running the pick and roll while Kobe rests late in the 3rd quarter. Take a whiff as they breeze by you, rest of the league. Smell that? It’s the smell of success… it smells kinda like a wet dog given a bulgari cologne bath.

What do you think makes Pau so perpetually mopey and hangdog? He misses his Spanish national teammates. Taking breaks from practice to whip up some parking lot Paella. (Y’know, traditional tapas tailgating.) Maybe having a little locker room siesta leaning back in matching Sombreros. You add in an understanding of fur-induced itchiness and I think Pau starts to pick up his game with Teen Wolf by his side. In fact, I think Gasol would start to play allot better if he’d just stop shaving his cheeks and forehead and give over to his lychen nature. (*Recent point guard pick-up Ramon Sessions is a nice solution to many of this club’s issues but, how many times have you seen him defiantly spin the ball on his furry finger mid-possession?)

CHICAGO BULLS - G/F Stephen Jackson

The Bulls already made their play for the veteran two-guard with Rip Hamilton. Unfortunately, the long, lanky, loopy Captain Jack is the winner they really needed. As it happens, he’s leaving the equivalent of a trail of farts as he exits the locker room in Milwaukee, so I’m sure they’d just as soon get rid of that shit. What’s most often lost though in Stephen Jackson’s being such a volatile fruit loop with a hair trigger temper is… he’s a winning volatile fruit loop with a hair trigger temper.

Stephen Jackson has played significant roles for winning incarnations of the Pacers (betwixt punching wildly at fans), Spurs (whilst kicking opponents and the odd cameraman) and Warriors (I dunno, maybe he showed his dick to a security guard or something) but, what gets lost in all of that mess is the part where Stephen Jackson was winning games on winning teams.

Now, the truth is you’d really far prefer a still-irrationally confident but spry 2008 Captain Jack but, unfortunately for the Bulls, you take what you can get. I may only see Jackson as a replacement for a James Johnson-type but, this is a guy who’ll punch you in the throat when no one’s looking and then drift out to the corner to stick a three. What the Bulls need is a mean shooter with no conscience, and that is very likely what’s going on Stephen Jackson’s tombstone. (I mean his Tombstone Pizza. His pre-game ritual is to write stuff out in onions and peppers and then eat his own words.)

MIAMI HEAT - F Angry LeBron James

No new pieces are necessary for the Heat to win the NBA title right now. In fact, I think the last thing they need is another player to work into their rotation and to integrate in this shortened season. No, what the Heat need is a singularly motivated super star. Not a distracted or disinterested LeBron mind you but, a super pissed version of this super specimen would guarantee a title. (Note: Angry LeBron pictured in Cavs jersey, right, as no known photographic evidence could be found of angry, scary LeBron in Heat jersey.)

Now, I think we all know the answer here.Sure it might seem a little unsavoury but, what the Heat need is a slick talking Frenchman to openly make out with LeBron’s mother during game breaks in the arena, or perhaps a swarthy South American to finger LeBron’s fiancee. (Obviously, that last scenario can’t be as overt. NBA arenas work hard to maintain a family atmosphere, we can’t have the TNT Thursday night cameras cutting away to some Brazilian stink fingering the future Mrs. James. Hubie Brown is left with no choice but to give his break down; “See what you gotta like here is how Umberto goes under the screen of the picnic blanket they brought in.. unorthodox.. and then, the defensive hand of the unsuspecting girl comes over top and he makes a confident move to push down into the front of the pants. That’s a big time pro move.”)

Filthy and off-putting though that may have seemed, for any of you who’ve seen More Than A Game (and I recommend you do), you would’ve seen how a young and driven LeBron James seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder that has since become dislodged. High School LeBron wore a bit of a sour puss and seemed to reserve the smile and warmth for his teammates. Maybe, the insight to be gleaned from this documentary is that pre-pro LeBron used the absence of his father and the basic needs of he and his mother to push himself to stratospheric levels.

Maybe, the Heat’s in-house arena entertainment should just flash images of LeBron’s fatherless christmases, piping in tthe odd, almost inaudible whisper under the in-game music; “Daddy wasn’t there.” It might all seem a sinister or draconian way of motivating a player but then, give the Heat that angry, driven version of LeBron and we all win. Just cue up the most compelling and entertaining NBA playoffs since early 90’s Michael Jordan. The NBA playoffs; “Where family issues get exorcised.”

As to the the other “contenders”….;

(I hope those quotes seem appropriately sarcastic to convey how little I believe in these teams.)

DALLAS: I’m sorry but, you’re already an unnatural army of decaying zombies. How is Jason Kidd still ambulatory anyway? He always seems to have some new, young, attractive wife or girlfriend but he looks like a middle-aged Hoggle from Labyrinth. Are we certain he’s not mesmerizing them with shiny charms to date, marry and ultimately steal their bone marrow and stem cells?

NEW YORK: Shit, I was totally gonna conjure some bullshit about an unathletic american-asian point guard with moxie who might rekindle the flame of New York Knicks basketball and capture the imagination and interest of the sporting world but, I couldn’t find a picture or story online to support that ridiculous thesis.

ORLANDO: I dunno, maybe a Magic pizza bagel that imbues a cherubic Hedo Turkoglu with tiny wings and an archer’s accuracy to play out of his mind? Translation: It would take an actual magical event for Dwight Howard to win a title with this line-up. The Orlando Magic are a regular season illusion that will have the curtain pulled back on them by a deeper, more complete team come play-off time.

Everybody else… I hear from ‘basketball people in the know’ that it’s a really deep draft, so there ya go.

Still, if the guy sitting at the top of the board was set to be an all-timer.. a franchise changer… a super-skilled once-in-a-generation athlete… it’d all be for naught if he wasn’t also a bit of a sociopath. And, if that unique constellation of attributes was embodied in one guy, we’d all have heard of him already… he’d quite simply have won more than everyone else. (Anthony Davis, do you have it in you to hate?)

ADDENDUM:

Finally, I must make good on a promise I made for my own home town team that shall not be named until they’re re-named (rhymes with Toronto ‘Craptors’);

TORONTO R@&$#*S - PF Charles Oakley

GM Bryan Colangelo said that his blueprint for the initial international rebuild of the Toronto pro basketball franchise (there’s gotta be a less wordy way of keeping up this boyish nickname boycott) effectively came off the rails when all-purpose power forward and instant fan favourite Jorge Garbajosa went down late in his first season with what was ultimately a career crippling injury.

(side note: Garbajosa became a personal all-time favourite when - in that old world sports way that’s now become mostly mythology - it was discovered that he’d sometimes sneak a cigarette in the tunnels, in between the action or before a second half. Mario Lemieux did this for years in the prime of his career and then proceeded to beat Hodgkin’s disease to solidify his place in the sports pantheon and speed the inevitable erecting of statues in his honor. Or, at the very least, it assured that any Lemieux statues would be incomplete without the added design feature of an ashtray built into the palm of his fist pumping hockey glove. Aren’t you down with a smirking Lemieux statue that catches your ash as you puff and shiver your way through a Pittsburgh winter night out front of the arena.)

Colangelo would likely admit that Garbajosa was the international Charles Oakley analog he was desperate for as a key ingredient in his championship souffle. (Same versatility, grit and mid-range game as Oak without quite the same amount of mouth punching.) Now, that attempt to bake a championship pie was rehashed and scaled down to a tartlet made with day old eggs and under ripe backyard apples.

So, as Garbajosa is now an impossibility, I submit that what Toronto needs to get back on track is another shot in the mouth from Oak. Open wide, undisciplined swingmen and soft interior defenders, here it cums comes.

To be clear, though prime of his career, premier defender/enforcer and agitator Charles Oakley would solve many an issue with a weak and character deficient Toronto roster, I’m actually advocating the signing of the…. wait for it… 49 year old Oak of today. From friendly poker games on the team charter to the second night of a back-to-back on the road mid-season, what this team doesn’t do is take it personally and slap a guy in the mouth if it’s called for. (And even when it’s not.) If only for the ways in which he’d surely hold court in the locker room like a greying, world wearied anti-hero from a 70’s blaxploitation film (the walkin’, jive-talkin’, dice and dynamite throwin’ incarnation of Dolemite), a Charles Oakley-type is a necessity. And who’s more a Charles Oakley-type than Charles Oakley? (That’s actually a genuine question hidden inside a throw-away line. Who is the modern, still vital, version of Oakley? Garnett?

The point has been made many a time by NBA columnists and professional opinion conjurers that players won’t just offer their ear or acquiesce in any respect unless the player trying to lead them can play the game at a high level. The Toronto franchise is, as always, starving for top-tier talent but, it doesn’t follow that this player will have leadership qualities (see the Vince Carter and Chris Bosh years). Until that basketball Jesus shows up - almost certainly through some draft miracle with the lack of desirability to playing in this market - Toronto will have to hold onto the hope that they’ll find a sociopath to fill out their roster;  one with the stones to slap some sense into their star player and the skills to thread a bounce pass and stick a 14-footer.

Oh, Wherefore Oak Thou?

The Greatest Game Ever Obsessed Over

So this guy, NFLrankingDOTnet (possibly not his actual name) makes out like he’s got the NBA’s own zapruder film in this homespun documentary about an NBA playoff game where he contends that 'the fix was in' and 'the league was in on it' — it all makes for a no access, all-in, balls-out exposé that’s worth its weight in crazy pills.

The NBA at least left a trail of seizure notices behind - calling in corporate favours and leveraging fellow intellectual property bully, EMI - in having these vids rooted out and wiped clean off the face of the planet (read YouTube). The commish denies it to this day but when Tim Donaghy was staring down time in the pokey for his part in a mafia-tied betting scandal that blackened the eye of the NBA, he threw the league and a few of his fellow officials under the bus by filing a court document alleging Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals was rigged by the league. This little movie, like the scandal it endeavors to expose, is something the NBA would just as soon sweep under the carpet, and then roll up and throw in the Hudson.

Still, this truth-seeker, disturbed shit-disturber and Sacramento Kings’ super-fan doggedly reposts it anew - under a new pseudonym he shuffles the serialized drama around, hiding it underneath new tags and headings and even employing a mall painting-like, hide-and-go-seek homepage meant to throw folks off the scent - where it remains unironically entitled;  "The Greatest Tragedy In Sports".

And you know what… It’s pretty fuckin’ great.

(Hush Whisper;  ”Follow the YouTube links down the rabbit hole and watch it all in sequence if you dare.”)

Yeah, maybe I’m taking a bit of ironic, giggly pleasure in how earnest this thing is;  witness his use of crazily dramatic music to score a bunch of ten year-old NBA game footage taped off his TV and the adorable cut-and-paste graphics and class project caliber text… all marshalled in a sincere effort to paint the Sacramento Kings loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 NBA Wetsern Conference Finals as an honest to god Aristotelian tragedy!*

(*I wonder what outlet would crazy people have had before the advent of the internet? Mr. DOTnet would’ve been cutting and pasting a scathing mixed-media collage on bristol board or, maybe making greco-roman statuettes of a Scot Pollard touch foul out of his own feces… and there’s no arts grants for that shit.)

A personal favourite of this little Euripides play he’s concocted comes 4:51 into the 4th chapter (see embed above), when we get downright operatic with the unmistakable footage of the second plane - Flight 175 - exploding on impact with the trade tower on 9/11 (My actual reaction was to exclaim, out loud; “Jesus Backflipping Christ, where are you going with this dude?!”). Here, the score swells to an uber-dramatic near crescendo before we SMASH CUT TO a graphic that reads ‘THE TRADE’;  herein he breaks down the Jason “White Chocolate” Williams trade for Mike Bibby?!!* Cause if we let Jason Williams keep jacking up deep threes early in the shot clock and throwing ill-advised no-look passes in crunch time possessions then the terrorists have truly won.

(*While this trade was widely thought to have steadied the Sacramento Kings 2001-2002 team with another shooter to space the floor on offence and a less erratic decision maker and ball-handler at the point, it ultimately made them less exciting, less likeable - go hang around Mike Bibby for a while - and greatly lacking in guys who had ‘chocolate’ in their names and games.)

Having said all of that, I truly think that this is a subject worth a whirl by a reputable sports documentarian. There’s a point where the peanut butter of these facts must be separated from the jelly that is the fiction before it all coalesces into an assumed whole truth sandwich. (The only equivalent I can think of is the way a lone dude in a sports bar once spun me a yarn about how the league office froze an envelope to rig the 1985 draft for the Knicks to get Patrick Ewing, all with that random bar guy conviction that makes apocryphal stories into verifiable fact.)

I don’t know how many steps there are between this crazy clip casserole and some of the more compelling ESPN sports docs of the recent past (the superlative Reggie Miller v. NY Knicks doc Winning Time, for example, might’ve lifted their Amadeus musical score idea from right here… though probably not) but, the point is I’d happily kick in a few sheckles on a kickstarter or somesuch to see this NBA auteur realize his vision for this film.

I can see the director walking the carpet at TIFF or the Tribeca film festival. A bedazzled Bobby Jackson King’s jersey pushed over the top with a blinking bow tie and the fancy Reeboks he reserves for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Spending a few minutes with the E! Network to tell them how this is a landmark victory for every hustling journeyman who never got a make-up call on offence;

"In a way, we are all a little Lawrence Funderburke."

Down with the establishment and the military industrial complex and up with uptempo offence!

GO YOU HUSKIES! REDUX

THERE’S A PIECE UP ON BALLnROLL RIGHT NOW THAT I WROTE, ENTITLED;  GO YOU HUSKIES! (I’d previously posted a link)

THERE’S NO HARD FEELINGS BUT, AFTER A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION ON USE OF PROFANITY AND ON ‘OUTING’ NBA PLAYERS AS KIND OF DIM AND DICKISH, I’VE POSTED IT AS I ACTUALLY WROTE IT BELOW.

(FOR THE RECORD: UP TOP THERE WAS S’POSED TO BE A ‘ONE-CLICK’ PETITION FOR CHANGING THE NAME RAPTORS TO HUSKIES)

Go You Huskies!

By Tynan Grierson

I have a t-shirt that reads “Toronto Basketball” that I still play pick-up in.

It’s from when I used to work for the Toronto Raptors basketball club in its first few years and, in place of the tiny dribbling dinosaur beneath the print, there’s a sticker with a sharpie pen sketch of a Husky dog.

In the wake of that work experience, the game and the shirt got put on the shelf. I found it hard to stomach the myriad ways in which basketball became style over substance; pro players as source code for those all-swagger and sweatband rec league guys that care more how they look than how they play.

At the intersection of basketball and fashion (the USP for this sports & lifestyle URL, ballnroll.com) are issues like these. Ponderous, crawl inside your own asshole-type queries about whether athletes, or more specifically basketball players, truly care about what they’re wearing. Whether - if you can remove any hackneyed Hackman in Hoosiers sentiment as I Grampontificate - the name on the front supersedes the name on the back of the jersey.

Sitting with my friends in class, I remember guarding the sports section from our teacher’s watch and poring over the list of potential names for our newly minted NBA franchise. We excitedly whispered the names at each other. “Toronto Towers.”; shielding our mouths and folding up corners of paper to compare first pass sketches of our take on a team logo. “The Beavers. The Toronto Beavers.”; my buddy John Coey spun his binder to share a shamefully earnest drawing of a beaver batting a ball with its tail.

Unabashed basketball freaks, we eschewed the typical pencil drawn dicks and ballpoint porno we might’ve been gawking at and instead conjured pages upon pages of unofficial basketball branding. Unbeknownst to us, the team would plow through its nationwide sham of a “Name Game” contest (purportedly tapping the populous for ideas on the team name, colors and logo) only to ultimately arrive at the monstrous moniker, the Toronto Raptors.*

(*This apparently consummated when a senior member of ownership… cough, Bitove.. asked his young son to pick from the ten names on the table – including well-known native Canadian species Scorpions, Tarantulas and Dragons. Bing. Bang. Blap. The city’s henceforth saddled with the craptacular identifier, Raptors.)

The enduring image of Isiah Thomas tearing through that first red and purple paper Raptor logo is set, in my mind, to the slow leak sound effect of a knife puncturing a fully inflated ball; from day one, the air was let out of any grown-up Toronto basketball fan’s enthusiasm for what was pre-emptively submarined as a cartoon franchise.

The brain trust’s branding rationale traces to a league policy allowing new franchises to recoup some of their whopping franchise fees in their first few years of existence. (In this case, a then record 125 million dollar franchise fee.) For that period, Toronto was able to keep all of their merchandising fees.* And despite the certainty of sucking that all early franchises slog through, their bet payed out. More than 20 million dollars in Raptor merchandise was sold in the first month and, through 1994 the Raptors were running seventh in merchandise sales before they’d played a single game.

(*Typical revenue sharing is meant to mitigate obvious disparities in sales of big market franchises vs. small; the allure of a LeBron jersey contrasted with that of a Boris Diaw Bobcats road jersey.)

Ok so, what’s the long lens view fellas? Sell short on your first best shot at affixing a place in the competitive landscape of the NBA to put some cash back in your pockets? Why is it said (so often that it’s now hardened like concrete in the collective consciousness) that players don’t want to play in Toronto? I’d argue to turn that notion on its head. NBA players indisputably love visiting Toronto. The issues players have are with the product on the court.. that big, red, dinosaur decaled court. To wit, I’d reframe the debate and say instead, players don’t want to wear the Raptors jersey.

“Canada team.”, is how franchise figurehead Andrea Bargnani puts it in adorably broken english; “It’s the only team in Canada, so we definitely represent the NBA in Canada.” Just the kind of circular simplicity that comes of media training in a language you don’t naturally speak. While it’s hard to fault a former number one pick already carrying the league banner for his native Italy asking to add another nation’s expectation, that ‘let’s be everything to everyone’ company line is also the reason I’m typing while half-watching him play to an empty home arena.

“That shovel doesn’t belong to you, it’s for all the boys and girls who come to the park.”, I once overheard a parent reason with their six year-old. “That means it doesn’t belong to anyone.”; was the elementary logic that this sandcastle artist applied as he turned back to crafting his pee-soaked palace. Not to equate NBA players with stroppy six year-olds – insert cheap joke about NBA stars not being willing to get dirty or mix it up – but, if we let these seven-foot children design their league, they’d be playing for the “Toronto Bong” right now.*

*(Best idea yet! Jersey’s just a giant baby taking a hit off the CN Tower. Headlines after losses, ‘Bong Take Hit.’ Mock it up photoshoppers.)

Born, bred and now playing out the twilight of his pro career in Toronto, Jamaal Magloire feels; “we need all the support we can get because we are the only team in Canada, as opposed the 29 other teams in the U.S.” But for fans of Toronto basketball this was to be our team; ours and no one else’s. A team name should aspire to capture and convey that above all. An identity that cuts to the core of that community with laser beam specificity. The Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, the Houston Rockets (Houston’s where NASA is based for those of you rocket scientists unfamiliar), etc… the best names are synonymous with city.

Players visualize themselves donning a jersey. It’s forever folded into basketball fantasies in lonely gyms, on blacktops and driveways; “Seconds on the clock. Down one. One possession. One shot.” Picture it, as they might be. Are they sporting Raptor red? Do you think any kid integrates the dino into their daydream?

Though there are twists before Toronto’s franchise could make a turn, it’s not without precedent to change a pro sports brand. Not long ago the Washington Bullets became the Wizards in an effort to distance themselves from the gun violence that’s endemic in the D.C. area. (Now they’re slinking back to respectability with re-traditionalized retread jerseys.)

Every pro sports GM is savvy enough to note that, short of a championship, there are no lasting legacies. Not when the next guy can shake your roster up to unrecognizability in a few swift moves, like an epileptic with an etch-a-sketch.

Flash forward to the first season of play for the Toronto Raptors Basketball Club (wince) and I’m now working for the team. I’m sandwiched between behemoths Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, leaning heavily on my shirt, tie and hands-free headset to convey an authority I obviously lack. I crane my head skyward to cue Ewing into place and lose track of the 98 year-old Jewish man (not much more than 5 foot 7 from hunch-to-toe) struggling to shuffle alongside stride-for-stride.

All part of a pre-game ceremony to commemorate the first ever NBA game, played in Toronto 50 years prior. Surviving members of the 1946 New York Knickerbockers and Toronto Huskies were paired with their current counterparts; much the way Premier League soccer marches players onto the pitch hand-in-hand with children to symbolize playing a kid’s game, albeit on a grand stage.

I gesture to Charles Oakley that he’s free to move to center court and he restrains himself from driving me into the floor like a railroad spike, tightening his giant fist and dragging his own frail franchise forefather in-tow. All the while, Oakley can’t stop himself barking profanities at the Raptor players across the floor; “Those jerseys come with cum stains on ‘em? Cause they’re the gayest fuckin’ things I’ve ever seen.”* This in contrast to Anthony Mason’s muttering; “Dinosaurs, brotha? If I was you, I’d fuckin’ kill myself.”

(* Particularly funny given Oakley would come to be traded to Toronto to don the Raptors jersey, in what might prove the key deal in a fleeting, Vince Carter-era franchise turnaround.)

“The Toronto Huskies.” I said it aloud to myself to test it on the tongue and visualized the persistent blue and white that might dominate the home they share with the beloved, unapologetically Toronto-specific Maple Leafs; who earned undying love by winning whilst wearing their city on their sleeve.

So, this is where we start. We start a petition. Write it on message boards. Build it to broadcast. Tweet it from the mountaintops. This is where we no longer cringe but crow on retro jersey night.

We grow this thing from the seed of an idea. We bear witness to the change in name, viability and fortunes of our NBA franchise. Notwithstanding the fists of cash you’d rake in re-launching your brand, there’s a responsibility to fans equivalent to that of shareholders in a corporation, and such organizations are only as strong as their core ideology.

Players and fans should care what they wear as it speaks to who they are. To the extent we can collectively ‘root for the right laundry’, we must change the name of our professional basketball franchise to the Toronto Huskies.

To take the liberty to speak for a city that has informed my sense of self, I will never identify as a Toronto Raptor. I was, and might be again, a Toronto basketball fan.

Go You Huskies!

Go You Huskies!

I’m writing the occasional article for a Basketball And Fashion Lifestyle Magazine called BALLnROLL.

Go You Huskies! is about my experience working for an NBA team, the business of basketball and how the name and look of the Toronto Raptors is so horrifically gay that it’s an insult to cartoonishly flamboyant, over-the-top, cock-sock wearing gay dudes everywhere to use that word.

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