The Keys to Beyond
Sometimes we need to take a step back to explain why we do what we do. Even in the most unhierarchical of postseasons, the most non-economic of offseasons, and the personality-less early seasons, the NBA remains king, and at large we all need a solid reminder of its status. The argument can and has been made in innumerable ways, but here I stand to offer you yet another version of the diatribe. It all began very innocently, a few weeks ago while the Chicago Bears were pummeling the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Amidst the slaughter of one Eli Manning and his boys, the Bears, scoring on all sides of the ball celebrating by mocking the New York Giants' "Ballin" fadeaway gesture, appropriated from formerly dope Dipset member and Giants booster, Jim Jones, reappropriated essentially from MJ's Game 6 swan song performance vs. the Jazz (of course "the fadeaway" could have come from any NBA baller, but it was Jordan who emblematized it ).
Next week on MNF, we witnessed a reoccurring. The Jacksonville Jaguars shellshocked the football Giants again, all the while performing "the fadeaway" after various sacks and touchdowns. This was the same game during which Jay-Z, who you might have heard just released a big-deal album with four good songs on it, appeared as the guest in the booth with Theisman, Kornheiser, and Tirico. Jay-Z, never one to shy away from sports references ranging from Harold Miner to Juan Pierre, has seemed to have gone sports-crazy on his new album, essentially attempting to personify Michael Jordan much in the same way that cowboys were once personified by Jeru the Damaja, Sadat X, and the Fugees or mafiosos were personified by everyone from Nas and Raekwon to, um, the Fugees. In addition to Jay-Z pulling a metaphysical single-white-female on Jordan and showing up all over Monday Night Football, the man enlisted Dale Earnhardt and Danica Patrick in his latest video and took time out to record these NBA spots for TNT, the unedited versions of which, Freedarko has obtained semi-exclusive access to here and here.
As can be seen, Jay is doing his best MJ imitation in the way he talks about coming out of retirement...and not coincidentally, the aforementioned Jim Jones, the rapper Jay is currently beefing with (for those who live outside of the internet) mocks this persona in a recent diss track, referencing Iverson crossing Wizards-MJ (Godfather III) fresh out of retirement and accusing Jay of stealing the fadeaway gesture. Now you may be wondering, where is this going and what do boring rappers and boring football teams have to do with the NBA as king. The point is that the analogy of X as NBA Ball never works in the reciprocal direction. That is, many times we have proclaimed that BASKETBALL IS NOT [MUSIC] . Music, however, is basketball. It appears that football is basketball as well.
Rappers want to embody the persona of the NBA baller; not the other way around. Sure, no doubt the occasional athlete has tried his hand at the music game as well, but the thing is, from Troy Hudson to Wayman Tisdale, they have succeeded in putting out albums and even performing concerts. Musicians have never opted for a career change and made it to the NBA. Musicians compete and break up into genres or bands of individuals defined by "personality" in a way that is specific to the NBA team, not the MLB team or NFL team. NBA teams require the purest of chemistry, and are unfettered in their flow, whereas the switch between offense and defense in the other two major sports are far from musical in their nature.
A similar asymmetry appears with football. No basketball player "spikes" the ball or even flashes the Heisman pose. But for years touchdown receivers have been "dunking" the ball through the goal post, and Muhsin Muhammad has trademarked the between-the-legs dribble. Wide receivers, and to a certain degree centerfielders, are basketball players (CF. SHOALS). In football there are too many limits imposed on one's individuality, and so they strive for the athletic realm in which individualism reigns highest. This League of Stars, they will never reach unless they are Charlie Ward and so, in their few individual moments, the occasional sack or TD, they become "ballers."
It is not the spirit of individualism or personality-as-team-chemistry that provides the NBA this status, however. It is that the NBA is the closest earthly realm to immortality. That Ronnie Price can literally place the regions from where he will one day provide the seed of birth on the temple--that boxing ring of mental faculty--of Carlos Boozer, is an act only performed on professional hardwood. The same can be said of Nate Robinson's ascension of space to DAVID-ize Yao Ming. Both are acts in which man says that he is greater than man itself, and while a Gary Matthews Jr. twisting leap or a Terry Glenn one-handed grab are fantastic, only those moves performed between NBA hoops are god-like.