What Hideous Curiosity

Over the years, FD has become associated with many things, some good, some bad. Among the leading positives is Big Baby Belafonte's dazzling artwork. Since the Style Guide was first released--ironically, you can't even see it anymore--Big Baby has popularized a distinctive, resonant way of looking at basketball. Literally. The Macrophenomenal Almanac and the Undisputed Guide expanded the audience for this exciting, perceptive, creative thinking, and Big Baby's work is as inextricably FD as anything else. We're all fortunate to say so. Those prints are something of a trademark. And a cash cow!

(Please note that I can write all of these nice things, however factual, because I've had absolutely nothing to do with the art. Like anyone else, I am a fan who looks on with amazement and appreciation.)

It's not just Big Baby, though. FD has been the launching point for a number of artistic explorations. Who could forget when Tom Ziller used his third-eye vision to teach that the day's mathematics was Z? Or more recently, when Hakeen was remembered amid the scribbles in your notepad that invented your life? FD has a proud artistic tradition.

Today may mark a departure from this distinguished history. Certainly, there is artwork that follows, and it very much endeavors to comment on this basketball which we hold dear. But that's the end of the similarity. Our latest episode offers decidedly less aesthetic appeal than that which is common among its predecessors. It might not even make any sense. The images that you're about to look upon are purposely lo-fi, functional in the service of expressing an idea, but not exactly ready to adorn the lavish halls of Slim Chin's manse.

These images grew out of a confused, meandering conversation that I had with Shoals one night last week as Derrick Rose played a sensational game that we hated. You may recall the capstone:

Less obvious while in plain sight, Derrick Rose took a customary straight path to the basket. He seems to always do that, eschewing soft angles and minute precision for hard darts and raging athleticism directed in a single vector. Rose can change directions, of course, but he explodes in a series of discrete movements, no matter how quickly he may change from one to another. His motion isn't united as a single brush stroke. It is a collection of lines, a pile of pickup sticks arrayed in new patterns but always limited by the component parts. Another image that immediately appeared in my mind was one of a locomotive laying down its own tracks as it rumbled along. Shoals was almost mad at Rose for this. We agreed that it was dissonant. For all of his obvious physical prowess, Rose has a limited game. Only, the limit is born of convenience. He isn't a wonderful shooter, his court vision is not an unmistakable strength, and he does not pose a threat from all over. Derrick Rose doesn't need that. Instead, he's something of a perfect scoring weapon, a man who invariably finds himself at the rim after picking a trail and racing forward along it. The shit works.

Brute strength and straight-line basketball are shrill traits for a point guard in this new era of the position's pitch-perfect primacy. While styles among the leading point guards vary, seemingly each one makes far more sense for its master than Rose's does for a player as physically competent. Shoals and I mulled this over for a while before intervening commitments left us at the point where artwork comes into the story. Lost in the morass we commonly create as our online ruminations crash into each other, we agreed that I would endeavor to create simple visuals that captured the overriding impressions respectively left by my favorite guards. This, we thought, might help us better articulate what Derrick Rose is, exactly. I am not sure that I succeeded, but maybe it will start a better conversation.

(Click to enlarge.)

Chris Paul, Angle Master

Derrick Rose, Raging Bull

Rajon Rondo, Cat on Ice Skates

Russell Westbrook, The Magic Carpet Ride

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At 11/09/2010 10:38 AM, Blogger bushytop said...

you never cease to amaze with the concepts or the artwork. nice work.

At 11/09/2010 12:53 PM, Blogger juhan said...

sweeeet d.rose is my hero!

At 11/09/2010 6:45 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Rose is all about vectors. These are useful in constructing the edifices upon which his particular brand of basketball and, by extension, the Windy City Bulls, is built. There is beauty and grace and, yes, power in simple lines, the absence of guile and a focus on the possibilities engendered in a straight line from A to B. What's important, too, is that this isn't the Rose we'll see in two years, but a foundation upon which later Roses will be built.

At 11/09/2010 6:58 PM, Blogger Codysseus said...

Haha very interesting, though I'm not sure I quite understand the Westbrook one. One thing that strikes me as unique to Rose is the way he contorts his body once he leaves his feet. He's incredibly nimble and is able to hit incredibly tough shots while twisting and bending in ways I don't see from anyone else. This is usually one of the factors people point to when talking about how he doesn't draw many fouls. He doesn't lean into contact, he wraps around it.

At 11/09/2010 7:39 PM, Blogger walrusoflove said...

thanks. you made my day. really great stuff.

gotta show some love for dwill and dre miller. hate to beat the chess metaphor but...

how bout dwill as a rook. lateral and backwards/forwards power moves, topped with some funky hair.

dre miller as a knight. foreseeable movements and limited range enhance his capability to frustrate and decimate opponents through oddularity.

meh...i leave it to the professionals....

At 11/10/2010 10:55 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

"Today may mark a departure from this distinguished history."

Seriously, when Shoals was scrawling the first bird-scratch versions of the style guide and drew Raja Bell as a swastika in the Suns offense, well, that was mind-blowing.

At 11/10/2010 12:04 PM, Blogger W2 said...

@ Walruslove. Dre is my man, after Rondo. He makes out of shape and balding look so good.

At 11/10/2010 9:25 PM, Blogger Mouth said...

Rondo's been my favorite guard in the world since his Kentucky days, and I approve of this analysis. I was a[n apparently ignorant] Deron Williams hater when he was drafted, but I think Deron deserves a diagram as well. It would resemble that of Chris Paul, but the angles would not be quite as sharp and Deron would be less likely to end up behind the backboard.

Good piece. Perhaps the 2010-2011 NCAA & NBA basketball seasons, even though I just saw my alma mater lose to Maryland in a poorly officiated heartbreaker, will coincide with the rebirth of my participation in FreeDarkoism.

At 11/11/2010 9:53 AM, Blogger Jam√łn Serrano said...

Something has to be able to defrost my icy NBA heart, enough so to mix it up with the rest of the ingredients necessary for unabashed PG lovefests like this fucking R. Crumb of the internet age analysis of the rocky ride these new breed players are taking us vicariously on.

Shyne's back in the news for all the right reasons? Where does this fit in with the Israeli national team circa 2012!?!?

At 11/11/2010 10:57 PM, Blogger Matt R. Horon said...

Great stuff on Rose, his game is completely linear and his speed is a binary switch 100010101010. No other choices but "on" and "off".

Compared to, say -- Billups -- Rose's game is limited. Watching the master Chauncy bait an opponent into a foul or cooly open up a passing angle by downshifting into 2nd gear on the drive are things of beauty.

But there is beauty in Rose's game too.

At 11/12/2010 10:29 PM, Blogger d said...

First of all, I'm watching the Knicks/T-Wolves game right now, and your boy Darko isn't really doing anything. Love, on the other hand, is incredible. 30+ rebounds.

As far as PG's go, you're right. Rondo and Paul are better than Rose, but Rondo and Paul are elite of elite. Goddamn can Rondo play. Could he play like that at Kentucky? I don't remember him being so dominant in college.

At 11/13/2010 12:56 AM, Blogger William said...

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At 11/13/2010 1:19 AM, Blogger Mouth said...


"Kevin [Love] had an incredible game," coach Kurt Rambis said. "Those numbers are just stupid. I don't even know what to say."

At 11/15/2010 1:32 AM, Blogger Richard said...


I mean, not just lost, but missing all recognition of ever existing. A conversation regarding points and dripping style sans Williams is like talking about posterior and not including Kardash.

At 11/16/2010 11:12 AM, OpenID TheKobeBeef said...

It seems as though you are trying to equate batting stance with production, to use a baseball reference. I know that the both of you are quite fond of the journey to production, as shown in your illustrations and the FD canon. Yet I cannot help but think that the point to Rose's game is how effective his bull-headed approach is. His true shooting perspective is .524 for his career and his effective FG percentage is .488. He is a product of Calipari's iso probing offense at Memphis so why should Rose be anything other than what he is. He is not the best shooter because he has been crafted to get to the rim where he has the highest percentage of scoring or getting to the line (or being rejected). Let Deng, Bogans, and Noah worry about jump shots for now. Rose should not attempt to be the perfect guard. It is not his style. Let Rondo fill that void as he looks to be Jason Kidd 2.0.

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