Prototype, archetype, or swollen?
This post was meant to emphasize the suede importance of monitoring KG's all-Asia blog on NBA.com. It's well-known that we do to death the "league of personality" angle, but name any other sport where you'd get the following gems dropped from out the mawpiece of an institutional formality:
Shanghai is not like any city that I have ever seen. A lot of the skyscrapers are less then ten years old. Millions of sky scrappers.
Our hotel was crazy! I have stayed at a lot of hotels and this hotel is by far the best I have ever stayed in. The room was so 2010.
At the event we debuted the Garnett ’06 (set to launch globally in January 2007). This shoe is so cold; it has the new adidas Bounce technology. On both of the shoes soles I did a special dedication to both South Carolina and Chicago.
You gotta understand that when athletes come over these kids don't get a chance to come up and touch us, but oh well what the hell these kids are so excited I decided that I would bring them up for a group picture.
The day was a good day, I was very happy with it. I am beat, going to get me some z’s, but first I need some more of that stuff from the sushi spot.
Check me out tomorrow as I have to some interviews in the morning and a TV show appearance in the afternoon. I am really hyped with that one.
Not saying that this is anything revelatory, and by KG's standards this really isn't all that vibrant. And the Ticket's not about to snag a Pullitzer on this one. What I'm taken with, though, is how inevitable it is that this would have some readily discernible life to it. As a public figure, flatness just isn't an option for Garnett; he's made his way in this league with a basketball style and a personae like no other, and when the league calls on him they're in large part calling on his individualism.
This got me floating back to the days before the new NBA, when KG was as next as it got. Strange to think that the Association might've passed him by, seeing as he still seems ahead of the times. But with both him and Iverson on the verge of wrapping up the defining phases of their HOF careers, it's beginning to sink in: Garnett lasts through the centuries for that MVP/Conference Finals run, and Iverson's hailed primarily in the name of that one Finals upset. For all of their respective reserves of genius and indelible influence on the game, their defining moments will remain the seasons where they towered on the man's terms. The New NBA is an era of victory, and cruelly, these two forerunners of ultimate competitive style may well be thought of as well-meaning transitional figures with a lot of baggage. Garnett's manic eccentricity, AI's infinite hoodom; both have no equal in the newly-arrived future, even if they've done more than anyone in the Association to update the competitive spirit for hip-hop's children.
Go ahead, point at your man Jordan. If his pathological eagerness to lovelessly destroy was so readily compatible with the post-Jordan outlook, why did it for the most part skip a generation? Those immediately following in His footsteps saw fit to neglect meaningful striving altogether, so the story goes; Kobe was an exception, but he's relevant only to himself or through a radiation-proof wall. Iveron and Garnett, though, proved that one could be all about the final score and standing without having to sacrifice one bit of omniscient cool or self-propelled swagger. Yet just as the iso and dunk obsessed era devolped style-as-psychological-warfare to an untenable extreme, Garnett's volcanism and Iverson's sulky intensity proved to be a liability, and so was streamlined to more functional dimensions in the form of LeBron, Wade, Arenas, etc. I imagine the story will go something like this: those two were martyrs to the cause of desire, hampered by the very same excess that made them magnetic beacons in the wilderness.
Reading KG's blog, though, I remembered exactly why he and AI should still be positively indispensable presences in this league. For all the sound ethic of the new ruling cats, only Arenas seems to have personalized the will to win. Garnett and Iverson aren't merely players with more personality than anyone this side of Shaq—they're also figures whose individuality extends to every bit of their basketball activity. Just as Garnett could hardly type up pap to describe his travels, his need to win was a function of his personality, not something disfigured or distracted by it. You want yet another cause why Gilbert is my arc of devotion? He's never willing or able to subsume himself when duty calls, and has thus far proven admirably capable of locating a winner's mentality within one of the most screwy sports psyches the world has ever known. For that, I think he's a more fully-formed citizen-athlete than any of his marquee-mates, making KG and AI into examples still yet to be fully followed, rather than experiments intended to combust.
FreeDarko has loudly proclaimed this a league of psychology, and far be from this one lonely combatant to back down off of that edict. For the most part, however, this has meant picking apart NBA humans as if they were case studies, rather than marveling at the subjective glow they case upon this earth. And the sad truth is that, other than Arenas and occasionally Carmelo, that's just not something that our young warriors seem to particularly excel at. The cut-off point for this is pretty ridiculously high: Shaq is too cartoonish and contrived, and Barkley stands as the point of reference. If this is to ever be a league of subjecitivity, we cannot allow Garnett and Iverson to fall by the wayside simply because they were utoward, awkward, or problematic as franchise players. If one dares expect that athletes actively project their humanity rather than bear its reflection, play the game as if it were their life and not just a particularly impassioned job, these two stars must continue to be entrusted with the very soul of the Association.