“Mama there goes that Meme!” is a weekly HoopSpeak feature in which Beckley and Ethan, like curious extraterrestrials, probe, abuse, and ultimately learn from a popular media meme.
Ethan: Hey Beckley, remember when we were going to talk about Noah’s new contract? Well, I tried till I got the boredom vapors. Passed out, face-slapped the keyboard, woke up (again) to the meme-replete-Heat. Now, you would think that a mere exhibition game would be a mere exhibition game. But Beckley, that’s because you’re simple, stupid even. Deep sportswriters could teach you a thing or two–if you weren’t dumber than a drunken yokel who brushes his teeth with a shotgun. Those wise scribes sought to make this game symbolic as hieroglyphics, and we’re richer for it. Because, you see, this was a passing of the torch–a change in alpha dog status. Though Dwyane had spent all Summer urinating over every square foot of South Beach, he forgot to liquid bless American Airlines Arena. Dwyane Wades to the trainer’s room and next thing you know, the territory reeks of LeBron’s musk. The Miami Heat is no longer “Wade’s team.”
There can be only one!
Beckley: Ethan, I’m concerned I might get whiplash from the violent tossing and turnings aboard the King James bandwagon. A few months ago I gleefully hopped on the moment LeBrawn left Cleveland, you know, because I suffer from Soul Deficiency Syndrome. It was luxuriously spacious when there were only a few of us– the Miami Vice themed cocktails flowed like Anthony Morrow’s jumper and Lou Bega jams filled the humid air. Not only had people written off LeBron as a leader, but he was repeatedly compared to a second banana, which even your slack-jawed, squirrel-munching yokel can tell you is far less tasty. As proof, just moments before LeBron’s first action as a member of El Heat, the very same GM’s that had dismantled their entire rosters and tussled like sex-crazed baboons for LeBron’s services no longer felt his play would be “most valuable.”
So what gives, Ethan? How did you handle your second banana status on this blog? Any advice for Wade on how he can somehow be a relevant human being even if he isn’t the alpha dog? Maybe you can refer him to Pau Gasol’s stellar performance in last year’s NBA Finals. He was clearly the most effective player throughout the series, but Kobe still got the MVP (and plenty of love). What’s the relationship between being top dog and being the more important player, anyways?
As Houdini’s assistant said before he attempted his last trick, good luck with this tangled mess!
Ethan: Tangled mess? How about: I crashed your party, at your behest. Dude, you left yourself more open than Ben Wallace behind the arc. I’m LeBron in this joint. Back in the day, this was your blog. And you did well by it, really you did. Pat yourself on the back! No wait, stop, you’ll just dislocate your shoulder a la Dwyane. Anyway, you had a vision, but you couldn’t do it alone.
So why don’t you ask Wade how it feels to be overshadowed by a force of nature? You’re bananas to think me second. Nas, just how did this unfold?
In ’88 ‘10 you was getting chased through your building blog,
Calling my crib and I ain’t even give you my numbers
Right. Thanks, Nas. But would you mind releasing a quality CD before Beckley points out that Jay Z surpassed you in every way over the last decade? What’s that? “Oochie Wally” was a cultural touchstone? Okay.
Beckley, it’s simple. LeBron James couldn’t possibly be “the man” since he joined a slightly lesser talent’s current team. That is, until the first preseason game, which proved that LeBron is “the man.” But “the man” on the best team can’t possibly hope to win Most Valuable Player, though that’s been a past rule of dumb thumb. No, that award is staying warm for a guy who wreaked havoc in Turkey like Indiana Jones. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be surprised if LeBron wins the MVP again.
Oh, and as for Kobe vs. Pau? Being “the man” means shooting the most on the team that wins. Which is why I littered this digital space with words o’ plenty. Top Dog=Quantity, not quality, on the best quality team. You’d better be pithy and awesome, Becks. My status hangs in the balance toi.
Beckley: I’m going to assume that your latest diatribe is an ingenious attempt to illustrate how utterly foolish LeBron or Wade would be to battle over who’s the better banana. (As a corollary, can we please find a superhero duo from which to draw hollow metaphorical connections other than Batman and Robin?)
Anyways, combining superstars usually backfires because either both players are primarily scorers who add value to a club by hoisting (see: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson), or because of unforeseen personality clashes (See: Barkley and Pippen). Well, we knew that neither issue would be a problem for LeBron and Wade. The near BFFs personally engineered the chance to play together, and both take pride in impacting the game through passing, rebounding and defending.
The obsessive “who owns the team” meme seems to trace back to Michael Jordan’s ever-present mythology, which asks us to accept that “hey, sometimes a superstar is going to punch a teammate in the face during practice.” Jordan’s outburst only proved what he was willing to do to win, and how dominant his personality had become. MJ’s internal struggle towards greatness connected with the NBA audience because we knew he would torture himself and those around him to be victorious.
With LeBron and Dwyane, it’s too easy, too action-comedy buddy cop spectacular. We want vice, jealousy, hubris. We want blood.
Ethan: First off, I completely agree that my, er, ploy, was ingenious satire. Secondly, on your opinion that Melo-AI underwhelmed: It failed because Melo and Iverson delivered mediocrity wrapped in the spectacular. Average efficiency scoring by itself isn’t that great, and multiplying this fool’s gold only makes a team more foolish.
(Cut to the final scene of Braveheart, with Dave Berri as William Wallace, shouting “Scoring is vastly overrated!” as he fades away to blackness)
Barkley and Pippen clashed, possibly because that late 90’s uni was embroiled in its own stylistic civil war. Hey, how can two alpha doggies concentrate when they look like futuristic candy stripers? And by that I mean, those dudes were too old.
When you say that LBJ and Wade are “engineered to play with each other” because they impact the game “through passing, rebounding and defending,” you’re really crediting their productivity, not their jigsaw fit. These guys have enough skills to produce sans ball in hand. And this is what fascinates me: Perhaps two transcendent perimeter players help each other better than a great small and a great big.
I recall the Bill Simmons argument that two Miami perimeter stars doesn’t make as much sense as Paul plus Howard. While I understand the logic, I also question it. The game is evolving, Stockton-to-Malone doesn’t have to be the archetypal attack. And I wonder, does Paul-Howard make sense in part because that combination erases deficiencies? Paul can create for Howard who can’t. Paul can’t shoot over some defenders, but Howard draws the D back. Such an arrangement is as much a solution to a problem as it is domination. But Wade-James isn’t a solution to a problem–it’s inexorable destruction. These dudes don’t really have flaws–they can just augment awesome with more awesome. Forget synergy, these are two raptors, ripping all hunters limb from foot.
To those who use the Jordan model and rip the masculinity of a perceived second banana: you might as well be hissing, “clever girl.”