Mixed Nuts

The World According to LeBron James

Lebron

LeBron James didn’t deserve last year’s championship. Ray Allen bailed him out.

I’ve heard that more times than the Lorde song. First off, Ray Allen bailing anybody out nowadays is a pretty slim prospect. I haven’t seen Jesus carry his team since he turned down Denzel and that offer from Big State (or did he?).

Anyway, it got me thinking. What if I really do have Ray to thank for everything? Is the universe/NBA nothing more than a deterministic chain of events following a universal law of cause and effect? Without Ray’s shot, am I just a Cleveland choke artist all over again?

Because if the present moment is truly necessitated by a bunch of other events and conditions that preceded it, I am nothing without Ray. I’m the goat of Game 6. There is no Game 7, no Finals MVP, no Samsung Commercial. My legacy is built on a house of Shuttlesworthian sand and fog.

Look, I’m not a big fan of philosophy. I tend to over think things and most decisions I make are universally panned anyways. But I don’t think our actions are part of a bigger plan or an unbreakable chain of events that started billions of years ago. Some people call it determinism. This King doesn’t like the sound of it.

If everything in the past necessitated everything in the future then can’t we just bypass Ray-Ray’s shot all together and say I single-handedly destroyed the Spurs because of, I don’t know, dinosaurs? Cavemen? Or was it trilobites?

I’m not interested in that kind of world. Before you tell me, “of course you aren’t, ’cause you just want the credit for what Ray did,” you should know that such conditions excuse me from all my transgressions. I’m not responsible for the Decision, or that Clown Parade in Miami. It was all already decided in the Universe’s grand plan. I had no control over my actions.

So yeah, it’s convenient but I’m still not interested. I don’t think events are caused deterministically by prior actions (read: I did not win the 2013 NBA Finals because of Ray Allen). I’m not saying there are no such thing as causes, I’m just saying that there isn’t a single outcome for any one cause. Just like there isn’t only one “the one.” There are probably closer to thousands of people who are “the one.” I love Savannah, and I’m glad she’s the one, but she’s probably not the only one. She’s just the one I ended up with.

So when all you people out there status-post on Facebook about how great your significant other is, don’t forget there are probably a lot of other great people out there too and that you’ll probably break up with the person you’re currently with.

Cole is good at baking. But so is Scott
Cole might be good at baking but so are millions of other people

And so, sure, Ray’s shot against the Spurs was huge. It had a whole bunch of strange energy and it helped change the outcome of that series — I’d call it momentum but we all know that’s imaginary.

But the effect of that shot wasn’t deterministically determined. All it did was tie the game in that present moment. That’s it. The future was a whole bunch of undetermined possibilities. And I determined them. Without me, my body and my phenomenal skill-set, the future was nothing but immeasurable quantum space-time noise. I alchemized that meaningless fuzz into an NBA championship. End of story.

Maybe The Chosen One is fitting after all. I am the Chosen Distributor of the Magically Infinite Possibilities of the Universe.

But so too, are every single one of you.

Look, I get the reason behind all of the hate. If Ray doesn’t make that shot, I lose. That’s true. But that’s just one small part of the story. After all, we’re not strangers to a single, fluke event — our rapid universal expansion.

But are you saying that you had nothing to do with your life? That you don’t deserve the cupcakes you baked or the children you’ve worked hard to raise? Some dense-hot-expansive-jackpot-particle-system does?

Basketball, much like the universe, is made up of alternating layers of action and reaction that aren’t just indeterminate — they’re infinite. You’re not just a puppet on a bunch of cosmic strings.

So stop hating, haters.

A Festivus for the Rest of Us: Alternative End-of-Year Sports Awards

kids_dragging_treeIt’s that time of year again! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Festivus for the rest of us!

A lot has happened this year. The football death machine is finally winding down and the Pro Bowl is going to be Super Cool. NBA teams are figuring out what they’re made of, famous players are turning into zombies, and David Stern’s end is nigh.

What’s more, the year is almost over! Soon we can start anew – New York Knicks style – with even hollower promises of getting things together, joining a running club, and not eating pints of ice cream at 3AM whilst on Tinder.

It’s really a time for rebirth, the holiday season. One last time to drink, eat, watch TV, and capitalistically consume ourselves to a final, metaphorical death before we wake up shivering in front of a Christmas tree wearing elf pants.

So when you’re talking words with those strangers you share DNA with, reaching for the Fireball to kill the pain, praying that Michael Bublé sounds different in another room of the house, just remember — it won’t, and he doesn’t.

Instead, check out this Alternate Holiday Award Celebration! People do some awesome things for the holidays. In honor of the Festivus pole, let’s mix it up and dish out some alternative sports awards.

The Catalonian Christmas Award

Catalonians have a tradition of putting a defecating man in their nativity scenes. They also have a Tio de Nadal, which is a pooping log that’s put in a fire on Christmas eve and beaten with sticks.

The award goes to the sports teams of New York! Thanks to Eli, Carmelo, and the Nets for making the holidays in New York resemble poop. Given a chance, the city would gladly beat them all with sticks.

The South African Cookie Stealing Award

South Africa has a tale about Danny, a boy who was murdered by his grandmother after stealing Santa’s cookies! This insanely irrational overreaction award goes to Joey Crawford, the only man this holiday season who will gladly T up his own children, eject his mother-in-law, and call an offensive foul on the ham.

The SantaCon Award

Lousy, loud, and drunk Santa Claus pub crawls! Nothing says America like vomiting and fighting people who don’t believe in Christmas. This award goes to the American in all of us — the Dallas Cowboys. Managing to stay relevant for all the right reasons – like losing and making really solid strategic decisions – the ‘Boys will always have our drunken, obnoxious hearts.

The Ukrainian Tree Decorating Award

Ukrainians decorate their trees with spiders and spider webs. None of that glittery weak stuff. This rad, black metal award goes to the Carolina Panthers, who have one of the most bizarre color schemes in all of sports. Nothing says awesome like black, silver, electric blue, and cats!

The Austrian Krampus Award

Krampus is a Christmas devil who beats naughty children with branches. Remember to behave, if not for the fear of unactivated charcoal but for your own life too, kids. This award goes out to the NFL and Roger Goodell for their giddy willingness to punish smaller, less powerful components of football in order to take the spotlight off the real guys in charge. The NFL will always take the moral high ground, so long as it doesn’t involve losing money.

The Japanese KFC Award

The Japanese have a tradition of eating KFC on Christmas Eve. This soul-sucking consumer award goes to ESPN, for airing commercial after commercial about guys pulling beer out of glaciers and older men creeping on their wives now that they’re physically capable. I’ll lose it if I have to ask another question like “Why is there a bar in the middle of an antarctic glacier?” or  “Does every guy who went to ‘State’ suffer from ED?”

The NBA All-Underrated Team

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[tps_title]NBA All Underrated Team – 2013[/tps_title]

We’ve taken care of the Bad and the Ugly.

Next up, the “Wait, That Guy is Actually Really Good” squad.

This NBA all-underrated team is reserved for players who are having great seasons but are either unheard of due to geographic location, under-appreciated because of past reputation or just play for the Kings.

Press “next” to unveil the players.

The NBA All-Disappointment Team

NBA Disappointment Team

With just over a quarter of the NBA season gone by, it’s time for congratulations. A lot has gone down, including a too-hot-for-ESPN 13-letter-word (what could it have been!?) and a large amount of confusing awfulness in the East. We can blame Lawrence Frank for most of it, obviously, but it’s important to honor the players as well.

First up, the “We’re Really Disappointed in You” team.

In case you missed it, check out the The NBA All-Underrated Team.

(Note: Selections are based on talent and the subsequent squandering of said talent. Striking a fine balance between skill and noncommittal defense, questionable shot selection and wasted potential is essential).

Without further ado, the players:

Carmelo Anthony

  • Professional offensive black hole
  • Consummate pro who’s exceptional at pointing out what’s wrong and doing nothing to fix it
  • Voted unanimous winner of the Guy-You’d-Least-Like-to-Have-with-You-on-the-Titanic

Undoubtedly an incredible basketball talent, Anthony produces elite results on teams that are often known for their championship contending irrelevancy. With great talent comes great responsibility and on this all-disappointment squad, there’s always room for a star who avoids it like the plague.

Melo Tony has fashioned his NBA career after Billy Zane in my favorite James Cameron flick about a sinking ship and has shot his way out of everything he hasn’t liked – from Denver to the Jeremy Lin situation – at middling efficiency rates and max-dollars. This year, he’s hoisting nearly nine pull-up jumpers a game and has managed to be less effective (35.1 percent) shooting them than Rudy Gay (40.9 percent), per SportsVU.

But let’s face it, the real disappointment is how the Knicks are going down and all he cares about is that Heart of the Ocean diamond he left in his coat pocket. At 29, the window for Melo to prove he’s willing to commit to something all legitimate superstars have already committed to (defense) is currently being boarded up with nails.

Josh Smith

  • Gifted lefty with great court vision.
  • Has many skills; prefers to play to weaknesses
  • League leader in missed jumpers that lead to Andre Drummond dunks

*sigh*

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(screen shot courteousy of Vorped)

Rudy Gay

  • Banned stats from locker room in last-ditch self-preservation effort
  • League hot-potato
  • First player to be traded by John Hollinger

After being traded to his tenth team in the past two years, Gay finds himself on a Sacramento squad with DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and a starting lineup that will need at least two more basketballs and two less players.

Perhaps the definition of a low-efficiency gunner, Rudy has dropped to near Ricky Rubio depths this season, shooting just 38 percent. To be fair, he hasn’t shot that poorly from three (37 percent) and most players would kill to shoot threes at an overall FG% clip. Gay can still get a shot off on anyone at anytime, which has value. Just not $17.89 million value.

“John, if you come work for us, we’ll let you trade Rudy” was the Grizzlies’ first and only pitch they used to woo stat guru John Hollinger away from ESPN.

Nick Young

  • Only player in history to pump fake a free-throw.
  • Space cadet defense and ability to fight through screens rivaled only by blind dogs.
  • He doesn’t always pass, but when he does, he prefers the ball back immediately.

He is… The Most Swaggiest Man in the World.

Young’s antics are no secret by now. He’s having a career-year, averaging a hair over two rebounds a game with nearly 1.5 assists as a 6-foot-7 basketball player. He’s infamous for his Twitter handle “Swaggy P,” his Smaug-ishly desolate box scores and being Kendrick Lamar’s cousin.

Smaug was hereSmaug was here

A gifted athlete who could be a plus-defender, Young only seems interested in becoming the next Kobe despite not possessing any of the primary or secondary skills that make Kobe really good. Young’s swag is undeniable. His instincts – and his positive impact on the basketball court – not so much.

J.R. Smith

  • Takes 1-vs-5 as the ultimate challenge
  • Inappropriate tweeter, construction expert.
  • Not a fan of shot-efficiency

After winning the 6th Man Award last year, Smith has gone off into the NYC sewers in search of albino alligators, shooting under 35 percent and a mere 17.9 percent on pull-up jumpers this season, according to SportsVU.

He’s sliced his PER in half and continues to be more defensive on Twitter than the actual basketball court. A very talented player who taps into about 75 percent of his potential each season, this year he’s settled for about 17.9 percent.

At this point, it’s not clear who’s better — Smith, or his brother, Chris.

Kobe Bryant: Judgement Day

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After watching Kobe Bryant’s eight turnover, -.31 PER gem of a day, I found myself in a torn state of pity and sarcasm. I love Kobe, I love making fun of him and I can only do that because he’s an all-time great.

Sunday night was a cruel, cruel reality check.

What if he’s not Kobe anymore?  Is there a point to basketball? Who will we deem the best clutch player of all time without any statistical evidence to back it up next? Nobody else deserves to shoot 6-of-24 and win a Finals MVP.

Kobe at least offers a variegated shrubbery of insult-fodder. Nick Young has about one week’s worth of monochromatic jokes. He’s so dimensionless we’re resorting to this, which just isn’t funny.

Kobe’s proven year in, year out that he’s a machine (sorry, Sasha) and this is all starting to look eerily like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Kobe’s the T-800 who’s been replaced by a newer, swaggier T-1000 (Nick Young) and Steve Blake is John Connor because he looks like a kid that probably has a whiny voice.

Anyway, you find yourself rooting for the same guy you rooted against in the first Terminator because now he’s older, cooler, has a sense of humor and is up against a whole bunch of Swaggish-evil. The T-800 is clearly outmatched but there’s no way the dude is getting outgunned. The T-1000, on the other hand, is just a relentless, one-trick pony in pursuit of his next shot. Nobody wants to root for that.

We all know how it ends. Swaggy P shish kebabs Kobe with a pole but Kobe re-routes his system to an alternate power source and grenade launches Swaggs into the melting pot. But this is where the movie gets sad. Because Kobe still has to go. The movie’s ultimate realization is that even a Terminator has a heart. And that heart must be melted into oblivion.

The T-800 can’t actually self-terminate either. Linda Hamilton has to do it for him. That’s the thing with these great players — they’re often unable to self-destruct unless the circumstances are right, i.e., joining a miserable team who hits the red button for them.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets.

If Hollywood is where dreams and personalities go to die, Brooklyn is where basketball Terminators go to liquidate their chips. The Nets have arguably the second-best power forward in NBA history in Kevin Garnett (because Tim Duncan isn’t really a power forward) and a Hall of Fame, NBA Finals MVP in Paul Pierce. Both of them are currently self-terminating in a giant, industrial melting pot in Brooklyn.

I mean, those guys terminated the ultimate Kobe Bean Terminator in 2008. Last year, they were both highly functioning, effective basketball players. Nobody saw this coming. Their collective negative drop in PER this season is -14.82. That’s like a whole league average, anti-player. They have managed to create some sort of negative value T-1000 out of their decline that is as rotten as Pau Gasol (14.90 PER) is valuable.

It could be worse, I guess. They could be on the Knicks. If the Nets are the league compost pile, the Knicks are the New York City garbage system. One is at least full of things, or the shells of things, that were at one time colorful and useful. The other just stinks and give you tickets that cost a lot of money.

Anyway, with all these once-great machines waving goodbye to Linda Hamilton as the industrial elevator takes them to their ultimate doom, I’m not ready to see Kobe Bean go there yet.

You’ve got an alternate energy source somewhere, Kobe. Find it.

You’ll have to self-terminate someday of course, because we can’t have Nick Young getting that chip of yours.

But not yet.