Now 4 weeks into the 2014-2015 NBA season, there are already so many interesting storylines brewing across the league. For starters, we now know that the Cavs won’t be winning 70 games, the poor man’s Memphis Grizzles are a league best 10-2 and the LA Clippers oddly seem more deflated now that they’ve ditched their racist, jackass owner Donald Sterling in favor of an inspired, apeish one in Steve Ballmer.
The star power of the NBA gives it a leg up on all other American sports leagues and, in my opinion, creates some of the more entertaining sideline narratives. Due to the ever-expanding international appeal of modern basketball, the top NBA stars are not only global sports ambassadors, but offer a unique lens for viewing the nuances of popular culture. What results is some very strange, implicit commentary on the world we live in. Here are a few of the most notable examples from this year so far:
1. The LBJ Hairline Chronicles
King James went through a lot of changes over the summer. Not only did he announce his Cleveland homecoming after being dethroned in Miami by the San Antonio Spurs, he also thinned out quite a bit thanks to a rigorous 67-day (no carbs, no sugar, no dairy) diet. His hairline, however, didn’t get the memo. Having been one of the more interesting no-category stats to follow over the course of his career, LeBron’s receding hairline is nothing new to most meme-makers and sports enthusiasts. That’s why so many were thrown off when all of a sudden, at a Nike event in Beijing (left), LBJ looked significantly younger. His hairline had apparently been restored, somehow. Which is fine, considering it would be hard to argue against a man with millions of dollars treating something so minor, yet important to his virility.
But damn, can he make up his mind? When looking at the photos above, realize that the image on the right was taken after the one of the left, making the whole story quite the head-scratcher. A friend of mine suggested that LeBron’s 30-day trial of Rogaine must’ve expired, and I responded by almost spitting beer everywhere. However, after seeing a number of commercial campaigns he shot over the summer, it became more likely to me that the hairline treatment was an advertising ploy strategized by execs who probably didn’t want their brands associated with someone who looks past his prime, even if he is the most relevant athlete on the planet. After all, are Beats by Dre campaigns targeted at your balding uncle or the 20-something breaking his ankles at 24 Hour Fitness? Exactly.
2. American Horror Story: Lakeshow
My poor Lakers. This must be how has-been celebrities feel after finally looking in the mirror and realizing they have to auction its frame. Speaking of celebrities, my dad attended the Suns vs. Lakers game here in Los Angeles (Kobe’s 37 shots, 1 assist fiasco) and described the mood as “eerie” and “uncomfortable” at times, especially when the dejected faces of Leonardo DiCaprio and Denzel Washington were thrown onto the Jumbotron. I suppose this is because while most fans at sporting events cheer for their team to win, we Laker fans are largely cheering for our team not to lose — much like that stereotypical black lady that shouts at the screen in a horror movie in hope that the main character is at least forewarned.
The Hollywood backdrop of Lakerland has proven itself an asset to prolific winning over the years, but the situation has shifted drastically. The craziest thing is that this type of morbid curiosity brings in stupid cash for the Laker organization, making complete sense of that $4 billion cable deal with Time Warner. People who detest horror flicks sometimes ask, “Why should I pay to be scared?” Well, ask Laker lifer Jack Nicholson. The team all of a sudden makes The Shining sound like a romantic comedy.
3. Blake Griffin Beats Up Random Guy
As mentioned, the Clippers aren’t exactly meeting expectations early in the season. This is largely do to a subpar start from Blake Griffin, who I personally thought would be a running MVP candidate after his stellar display in last year’s playoffs. Although known to be one of the more comedic player-personalities off the court, Blake’s game time demeanor can be a little creepy, as he plays with such power but wears an impenetrable blankness on his face and in his eyes at times. You might have noticed it more this year now that the Clippers have lost some tough games.
Maybe the recent assault charges against him have something to do with his mediocre play. Apparently, Blake has been charged with one count of misdemeanor battery by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department for allegedly assaulting a man at Tao Nightclub back in October. The alleged victim, 39-year-old Daniel Schuman, told TMZ that Blake “slapped me in the right side of my face” after an altercation over a camera. Reports claim that he didn’t appreciate having cameras flash in his face, thus the use of Griffin Force on Daniel. I was skeptical at first — since Blake doesn’t really seem like a stupid dude — but we all know how gingers get when they drink. If true, I suppose it could be viewed as yet another egregious response to celebrity exploitation…or maybe its just karma from that infamous water incident.
The NBA on TNT has selected Kendrick Lamar’s “i” as the promo track for the 2014-2015 season. Firstly, as an avid watcher of NBA basketball, I feel like I’m being forced to like a song that I find very annoying. I understand the anthemic intentions of the track, but the self-celebration motif just comes off a bit corny in my opinion. Secondly, why do we need a song called “i” to get pumped up about a team sport? Oh, and how are they going to choose one of this year’s few songs not produced by DJ Mustard? That’s just careless.
5. The New Orleans Bobcats…Hornets. Wait, what?
Yeah, I’m still struggling with it too.