A Year in the “Gudda”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li0vJFmcB9M

            Released almost a year ago on his “Law 2” mixtape, Shy Glizzy’s “Gudda” has been in constant headphone rotation since I first heard it. “Gudda” opens with the ominous synth-stabs and bells courtesy of producer Beezy, before segueing into the song’s gleefully nihilistic chorus.

            Glizzy’s sneering high-voice is perfect for the sing-songy anthem in which he explains his penchant for bad behavior: “Motherfuck a hoe/ shoot a bitch n***a/ call a girl a bitch, well I ain’t got a sista.” Referencing the song’s namesake, he gives the reason, “I come from the gudda, where nobody love ya.”

            Chorus alone, “Gudda” is just about as perfect of a rap song I can think of, embodying everything incendiary and youthful about the music, while maintaining a sly, sadistic sense of humor for those refusing to be offended. Glizzy continues his stride in the verse, shouting out his hood and proclaiming his legitimacy from an early age: “I’ve been goin’ hard/since Pokemon cards,” before referring to his initial internet beef with Chicago rapper Chief Keef.

            Things only improve with the Kevin Gates verse as the Baton Rouge rapper rapidly cycles through various illegal activities, which culminate with him at a “Bistro, eatin’ cheesecake.” It’s pretty standard rap fair, but Gates’ is such an astutely, talented rapper, he could describe a day where he just washes his dog, and it still wouldn’t be out of place in this tremendously enjoyable song.

The top ten questions about the potential Andrew Wiggins-Kevin Love trade.

   

1. Should the Cavs trade Wiggins to acquire Kevin Love?
    2. Would Kevin Love like the weather in Cleveland?
    3. What number jersey would Kevin Love wear on the Cavs?
        -Nate Thurmond’s number 42 was retired in 1977
    4. Will Kevin Love be the next Nate Thurmond?
    5. Would Kevin Love be Lebron’s friend?
    6. Will Anderson Varejao’s hair end up in Kevin Love’s mouth in practice?
    7. What if Kevin Love forgets how to play basketball?
    8. Would Lebron help make Andrew Wiggins a great basketball player?
    9. What if a dog played with Lebron? Would that dog be a really good basketball player?
    10. Why did Dan Gilbert agree to a sign-in-trade for a dog?

The Universe Hates A Hero. The 2002 Western Conference Finals

I checked Grantland on Wednesday night and emitted an enthusiastic “Oooohh!” when I noticed the featured article: Jonathan Abrams’ oral history of the Sacramento Kings-Los Angeles Lakers 2002 Western Conference Finals. I promptly tuned out the episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” my girlfriend was watching and dove into the story like it was my own personal holy grail, hoping I would finally be able to connect the events of the seven-game series to my present day life. Considering your level of fandom, that obsessiveness either makes sense, or you’ll read the rest of this article with the suspicion that I’m a future case study in basketball insanity.

In simpler terms, the early 2000 Sacramento Kings were my rosebud.

 The irony of my first encounter with the Kings is not lost on me. I grew up in a small town called Chico, California, one hour and thirty minutes north of the capital. Yet, despite my close proximity to the Mitch Richmond-era Kings, I found myself - along with the rest of the country - captivated by the instant celebrity of the Orlando Magic’s Shaquille O’Neal. In first grade, with no other means of communication, I drew and sent a picture of Shaq Fu (dunking, naturally) to the man himself. In a few short weeks Shaq replied with a standard autographed picture and a personalized message. Obviously “Dear Fan” was a special nickname the Big Aristotle bestowed only upon myself.

Following the natural progression of a fan-boy, I begged my dad to take me to a Magic-Kings game. We ended up attending two games in as many years. Civic pride be damned, the Sacramento Kings were merely a prop to view Shaq in all his backboard shattering glory. I now realize that driving to root for one player on the opposing team is not the most heartening display of loyalty to one’s home squad, but sheer spectacle is a force capable of destroying even the most hardened basketball cynic. LeBron James continues to attract away crowds for this particular reason. I’m not saying I need an excuse, but I was in first grade and the Kings were barely performing .500 levels. Shaq was basketball then.

My pre-teen devotion to the sport was like that of a vagrant, desperately wandering through whichever marquee match-ups were given the national spotlight. Without a team to rest my identity on, I picked players to root for depending on how similar our names were. Nick Van Exel was one of my better choices. Antoine Walker, not so much.

 However, such habits were easy to extinguish with the lockout shortened 1998-‘99 season. In that small fifty game window, the Behind the Back (should’ve been a) Dynasty began to peak through, becoming the only team to average more than 100 points that year. The explosive Kings previewed a thrilling, if occasionally sloppy style of play that distracted from the brutish slugfests still taking place throughout much of the league.

In a post-Jordan era of explosive individual players, the Kings stood out not only in their kid tested high-light plays, but their mother-approved ball movement. Centered around rookie Jason Williams; future hall of famer (if there’s any justice) Chris Webber; and savvy veteran Vlade Divac, the Kings showcased a style of play in which seemingly any member on the court could commandeer the offense. Throw in Corliss Williamson, and future three-point champion, Peja Stojakovic, and you had the most thrilling 27-23 record of the year.

The following season, the Kings shed some weight (Oliver Miller joke) and blew past opponents in the first three quarters of nearly every game, earning what felt like a much more significant 44-38 record upon viewing.

In the scripting of the rivalry, the Kings lost to the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

What I was watching was special. I knew that much. I knew it from the startling amount of behind the back passes per game (BtBppg) to the ecstatic declarations of play-by-play announcer Grant Napear, whose trademark “If You Don’t Like That, Then You Don’t Like NBA Basketball!” felt like a challenge as much as it did a rallying cry.

 The Kings continued to grow in both popularity and talent, fetching Sixth Man of the Year Bobby Jackson and defensive stopper Doug Christie for a 55-27 record leading to another battle with the Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Jason Williams was then traded for the more reliable Mike Bibby, which enraged my And1 mixtape dependency for a moment before realizing the heart Bibby had.  While he was no stranger to big plays, it was Bibby’s fearlessness in the clutch that filled the void of White Chocolate’s spectacular albeit sloppy playbook. There is no greater evidence of that than the Western Conference Finals. 

It was in this seven game battle that the indomitable wall of meat* known as Shaq helped to destroy everything I love. Gone was the backboard shattering product pushing genie of Orlando. In his place stood a behemoth of the paint. Shaq didn’t post-up, as much as he absorbed defenders into his gravitational pull before exploding universes with a mere dunk. Once an admirer, I loathed the Big Nickname Generator. Coupled with Kobe Bryant’s steely-eyed smoothness and a murderer’s row of easy-villain role-players  (Rick Fox’s smugness, Robert Horry’s Robert Horry-ness), the Lakers were a team so sickeningly dominant that even the slightest appreciation of their talents could destroy friendships.

 It would not only be foolish for me to recap the WCF (I was thirteen at the time) but disingenuous to both the dynamic Kings highlights compiled by the saints of YouTube as well as Abrams’ amazing article.

For fear of sounding overtly sentimental about something I really had no part in, Abrams helped give me closure, specifically his section about the infamous Game Six.

There’s a desire to feel scorned, to feel like you and your home team were merely pawns in a conspiracy to solidify a Lakers three-peat. It makes you feel small and powerless, and there’s a comfort in that. That comfort overpowers any insecurity, because you can believe the problem isn’t with you, that it’s outside of you. It’s bigger than any thing you can handle. There are primal forces that you dare not meddle with. It’s the reason I listened to this Coldplay song more than once. But then you read Ted Bernhardt’s account of officiating that game and being forced to tell his boss, “…well, I thought my partners sucked,” and that can help you take closure in the fact that you were betrayed, not with malicious, cackling intent, but by dumb old human error.  

 I mean, there were a lot of errors. A hauntingly large amount of errors. Errors so headscratchingly crazy, you can believe Ralph Nader made it his business.

There is an utter hopelessness when you realize the universe just doesn’t want your heroes to feel the kind of joy you think they’ve earned, because what more can you give them after you’ve already hooted and hollered and even purchased a pair of their dumb shoes. (Kidding about that last part).

And yet that hope gets foolishly manipulated and restocked with new seasons, new faces, new jerseys. Of course that depends on whether or not your heart can handle it. One would be hard pressed to find a more accurate and clichéd metaphor for life. Except the one difference between sports and life is that in life you’re not sure if DeMarcus Cousins can really resurrect your team. Compared to that, this life shit’s easy.

*Yao Ming once referred to Shaq as a “meat wall.”

Not A Chill Out Zone

image

This is not a chill out zone. I can not chill. I am not in a chill mood and I haven’t been for the last week. I wasn’t chill when the Blazers lost to the Spurs by double-digits for the last three games. I wasn’t chill when the guy next to me at the bar repeatedly called LaMarcus Aldridge a “fucker” and kept trying to coach the TV. I wasn’t chill when he kept referring to Gregg Popvich as “Pops.” The tone in my voice wasn’t chill when I told him his name was “Pop. Not Pops! Just Pop.” Louis Armstrong is Pops. Gregg Popovich is the furthest thing from a jazz musician you’ll ever find. Pop is not chill.This series has not been chill. The only thing chill about this series is the ice the Spurs are dumping over the Blazers like they’re about to wake up in a bath with all their internal organs removed.     
    My dentist told me it looks like I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep. I never used to grind my teeth. The Playoffs happen and all of a sudden I’m grinding my teeth? I know I have a life outside of basketball, and there are certain stresses that come with that too, but I’m pretty sure this is playoffs related.  My dentist told me I should purchase a certain mouth guard for sleeping. I probably should’ve worn it last night. I hope I grind my teeth tonight, for fear that I won’t be grinding my teeth until a year from now.
    I can’t be chill today. The smallest glimmer of hope is keeping me from being chill today. This season has been too good to stop grinding my teeth now. I don’t want to chill out.

BLAZERS IN 7.

Spurs vs Blazers - A Time to Panic?

   ^ COOL SPURS FAN ART

The Spurs beat the Blazers, 116-92. Many are referring to the game as a “clinic.” Shortly after the win, Tony Parker received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University.
    Some have been uttering the words “Aron Baynes” and “franchise player” in the same sentence. Tim Duncan’s plus-minus rating is just an infinity symbol. Cory Joseph is being referred to by some as the “Canadian Steve Nash,” although I think they are confused.
    I mean, the Spurs bench did outscore the Blazers bench 50-18. Although that doesn’t concern me much since I consider the entire Spurs team to be bench players. If you consider all of the rests and line-up changes the Spurs have mastered, it’s hard not to think of them as a high functioning thirteen person back-up squad.
    And while I have never been to San Antonio (aw shucks!), and do not have evidence to back this up, I am sure the last seat on the Spurs bench is a portal for international wing-men and role players that R.C. Buford opens up whenever Popovich calls a time-out.
    The Blazers, needless to say, did not do well. LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 14 rebounds, which are great numbers if you’re Kevin Love and not a team in the playoffs.
    Are we sure that Gregg Popovich did not actually join the CIA? Because this game was pure water-boarding torture, offensively and defensively.
    Am I worried? No. Not really. Would I be happier if Kawhi Leonard did not hover over Damian Lillard like one of those Dementors from the Harry Potter movies? Yes. That’d be great. But I’d try to focus on simpler things than that. Things like dribbling the ball, rebounding, not passing it to the other team.
    I mean, that seems like a good way to start the next game.
    I’m sleepy. The Spurs are efficiently boring/boringly efficient.


    GO BLAZERS!

James Harden and the making of a heel.


    There was a moment during my life when I wasn’t that interested in basketball. It was a very stupid moment in my life, to be honest. Sometime in late 2011, my dad asked what I wanted for my birthday. When you’re not a child it’s hard to come up with a non-humiliating answer to that question. For the sheer novelty, I decided on Trailblazer tickets against the Oklahoma City Thunder. I hadn’t seen a live game in at least a year, the Thunder seemed the most entertaining team to watch, and the season had already started late due to the lock-out. To make the circumstances even more dire, Brandon Roy had recently retired.
    I wasn’t expecting much, and in that aspect, the Trailblazers delivered.
    My girlfriend and I arrived to the game in early 2012 and soon found ourselves befuddled and enthralled, not by the starting duo of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, but by Thunder sixth man, James Harden. For us, there was something so refreshing in watching this bearded weirdo drive to the hoop with reckless abandon and convert on nearly every attempt.
    Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year award and was traded to the Houston Rockets the next season. He became a two-time all-star. No longer available as a basketball novelty, he became the face of the franchise. With his striking beard and irritating play, he became the obvious heel. The man with the black hat.

image


    
    There was a brief play during the Blazers’ game six victory over the Rockets where James Harden had what felt to me like an Icarus moment. In the second half, Harden, despite having an overall poor playoff series, reemerged as the same threat who tormented defenders throughout the season. He looked like the James Harden I watched in 2011, appearing to singlehandedly drive the Rockets into a Game 7. He was flying closer to the sun, shooting out the Blazers chances at second round appearance. It was infuriating. And then that brief moment happened.
    

Defended by the tenacious Wesley Matthews - who dogged him all series long - Harden initiated a devastating crossover, leaving Matthews staggering left as Harden cut right with a clear path to the basket where he’d easily be able to launch a floater over Portland center Robin Lopez. It was a move that recalled the Harden of Oklahoma City, the fearless, Euro-stepping sixth man.
    But this was Harden, the All-Star. Instead of taking the ball to the basket, he dropped his shoulder into Matthews, attempting to draw a foul. Matthews, no stranger to the Beard’s tricks, responded in turn with a flop. Offensive foul: Harden.
    Melted wax dripped onto the floor of the Moda Center. He and his Rockets had tempted the notion of becoming NBA finalists, only to lose flight in the first round to a history making .09 second three point dagger by Damian Lillard.
    It was a beautiful moment for a fan of Blazers basketball. Here was Matthews, the undrafted shooting guard on the “lesser team” and he pissing all over Harden’s playbook.
    It was an ugly moment too. Harden was someone who showed me the light back to this beautiful game. And I laughed at his face. Again and again. After every botched flop or defensive lapse, I laughed.
     Where once I saw Harden as a great play-maker, driving around players like they were cones on a court, I now saw a flop-prone gunner whose All-Star status drew whistles. One who couldn’t defend a paper-bag. Who had zero chemistry with his all-star team mate. Who went home early in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
    And it was glorious.

    Basketball, much like life, is a cruel sport.

Dwight Howard, the goof.

image

Dwight Howard, center for the Houston Rockets, is known for being quite a goof! Here are some of the goofiest things he’s done during this playoff series against the Portland Trailblazers.

  •  Threw a cheap-shot elbow to the stomach of Portland center, Robin Lopez.
  •  Said something to a child during the second-half warm-ups in Portland. The child was seen crying soon after. (true )
  •  Is playing at a plus/minus of  -1.4 this series. I don’t really know what that means, but negative numbers can’t be good.
  •  Tried to convert Omri Casspi to Christianity.
  •  Made the jerk-off motion and rolled his eyes during a practice with Hakeem Olajuwon, then tried to convert him to Christianity.
  •  Jealous of Troy Daniel’s newfound stardom, he began referring to himself as the “Real D-League.”
  • Got blocked by Thomas Robinson
  • Got blocked by LaMarcus Aldridge
  •  Got Blocked by Robin Lopez
  • Poisoned LaMarcus Aldridge’s food. At least this explains his Game 5 performance.

Goofs will continue next season after the Blazers defeat the Rockets on Game 6, May 2nd, 7:30 PM.