I was in the middle of a post on the persistence of Melo's street-level popularity, and how his embattled public image, on-court hiccups, music industry girl, and Bodymore hood connections straight out of The Wire makes him the all-too-real people's champ. Regardless of his style of play, or failure to dead his critics with overwhelming dominance (the Iverson model), Melo's flaws are their own rewards.
(Silverbird, I hereby officially incite you to post your essay on Mr. Anthony. Not one of the twenty you've written on Greg Anthony and the time you invited him to your Bar Mitzvah, but the politics-laden one on Melo. It could help us all connect the pieces)
Then I saw KG shed tears on national tv, and things will never be the same. For anyone who wasn't spending their Saturday afternoon burning scented candles and watching TNT's "NBA One-on-One," John Thompson gently turned the Big Ticket's psyche inside out, and we learned that--surprise, surprise--he wants to win so badly, it tears him up that he can't will the Wolves to victory. But this isn't one of those highly personal killer instinct, where losing gives way to determined frustration. Garnett really seemed like a man undone, at a loss—he's an All-Star whose game single-handedly creates a winning team around him, but so far this season he's only been able to redeem himself. For an all-for-one guy like KG, this is worse than putting it all on yourself and swearing to go further next time.
By the way, he must have said ten times "I hate that you're seeing me like this," and TNT's resident father-figure/therapist comforted him: "it's the pride" or "it's the realness."
Iverson may stay true to his personal code like no one else, but only Garnett is honest enough to let you see him doubt his. There is not an ounce of pretense in him.
(video to follow later)
-Vince Carter is a serial All-Star Game co-dependant. Used to be him and T-Mac on camera, talking family; now, it's brother-in-law Jamison. That is a man crying out to the world.
-I believe that this may be the first All-Star weekend where the incessant interviews, pre-taped, in-practice, whatever, are the real highlight. And there haven't been any Shaq/Kobe questions lobbed yet.
-ESPN, the print version, chose this week to announce that hip-hop has become a part of the Association. Because Nelly bought into the Bobcats.
Really though, should anyone care at this point? The league is made up predominantly of (increasingly) young African-Americans, often from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds. What else would you expect? Diversity? Indecisiveness? No sport infilitrates urban spaces better than hoops, which thrives in parks, playgrounds, and cramped gyms; makes sense that music and culture would find their way into the game, almost as a matter of course. Would be far more interesting, and surprising, if MLB became totally salsa-fied.
-Speaking of which, TNT just informed me that Glen Campbell and Charlie Rich played at the ABA's first Dunk Contest. Now that's gangsta.
-Last serious thought: The Fab Five often gets credit for forcing organized basketball to confront the hip-hop monster on the horizon. But last time I checked, only Jalen Rose seemed to be a lifer; Iverson's all the more threatening (and possibly still ahead of his time) because he'll clearly never grow out of it.