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.


At 11/27/2006 9:19 AM, Blogger Trey said...

Must be these 4 songs.

3. Kingdom Come
4. Show Me What You Got
11. Trouble
13. Minority Report

At 11/27/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

My brother used "beefing" this weekend, and I thought it was some sort of homoerotic reference.

At 11/27/2006 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Winfield.

At 11/27/2006 10:07 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Dave Winfield is god.

I was thinking "Prelude," "Oh My God," "Kingdom Come," and "Trouble."

At 11/27/2006 10:51 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

This flies in the face of hip-hop gestaltists. Wouldn't they say that, under the atmosphere that is capitalized Hip-Hop, hoops and hoops expression and baller life are resident? In which case, even if the music can't subsume hoops, wouldn't they still live in the same House?

At 11/27/2006 11:25 AM, Blogger Trey said...

At least we can agree on "Trouble" and "Kingdom Come."

Just Blaze > Kanye

wv:cvscl (carbon vs. chlorine)

At 11/27/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous TZ said...

Ronnie Price will rule the NBA.

At 11/27/2006 12:42 PM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

Well put, DLIC.

4 out of 5 Lithuanian stars!

At 11/27/2006 3:05 PM, Blogger skinny said...

Music, however, is basketball. It appears that football is basketball as well.

when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

the only reason nba-ers can rap and rappers can't ball (no percy miller) is because one's a meritocracy and the other one isn't. footballers make basketball references because they have the spotlight for a few seconds after making certain plays. clint dempsey was doin the young joc dance last year, that doesn't make soccer into motorbiking. nobody spikes a basketball because it's illegal, nobody strikes the heisman pose because it would look stupid; they don't strike the heisman pose that often in the nfl either. and as for the immortality talk, I think bush's "mission accomplished" banner will be remembered by more people and for longer than anything that happens in the nba this year.

we know you like basketball, that's why you blog about it. but this is a bit much.

"trouble" is just a warmed-over version of "threat", which was rappin-at-38 the first time around.

At 11/27/2006 3:43 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

dude, people don't do the heisman pose because it looks stupid? watch that giants/ballin youtube video i linked to and tell me that strahan and umenyora don't look like fucking morons doing "the fadeaway."

people in other sports imitate basketball more than basketball imitates other sports. that's undeniable. there is an asymmetry. might be because of Jordan, but no one ever would say that any NBA player is the Babe Ruth/Tony Dorsett/Pele of the game.

NBA basketball is organized style fueled by individualism. other sports, and I would argue music, as well are trying to get on that level in a way that only NBA hoops have mastered.

[note: maybe boxing, and not basketball is actually at the top of the hierarchy, but i don't know enough about boxing to say]

also, where did the bush comment come from? no one is saying that basketball is more salient than international politics, just that it's doper than most other things and shows people behaving in a superhuman manner more than other domains.

not trying to pull the jon stewart fake news card again, but it confounds me that people who read freedarko regularly would ever call anything written on this blog "a bit much."

"threat" is DJ Premier as a sideshow attraction falling into a dunk tank.

"trouble" is fake/cleaner Lil Jon, but it's still dope.

At 11/27/2006 3:43 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

am i the only one who finds it funny that you mentioned the only jay-z song produced by the guy from a group called LITTLE BROTHER?

wv: gdxptl = designer drug taken by aztec proto-ravers

At 11/27/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger Trey said...

"Trouble" sounds like Lil' Jon and the beat from "Break Your Neck" by Busta put together (Dre made that too, so I guess that makes sense). Dope is right.

wv: relwn = Mavericks 1st round choice, June 2008

At 11/27/2006 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

van exel used to shadow box after hitting a dagger three. that's the only instance i can remember of a basketball player imitating a different sport. which backs up the thought that boxing's somehow at the top...

At 11/27/2006 4:50 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Perhaps most of this has to do with roster size. The fewer players, the more face-time for each. The more face-time, the more style and personality inevitably seep through. Furthermore, the more employees (read: players) you have in your organization, the more tightly you have to constrain behavior because you cannot control ideosyncracy on a wide scale (read No Fun League).

I think this has a lot less to do with basketball and more to do with the way that team size, through coincidence, is better set up to generate memes.

Wait, scratch all that. It's just looks awkward to stiff arm somebody who isn't there. Maybe that's all.

P.S. Board room Jigga can suck my balls.

At 11/27/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger skinny said...

dude, people don't do the heisman pose because it looks stupid? watch that giants/ballin youtube video i linked to and tell me that strahan and umenyora don't look like fucking morons doing "the fadeaway."

i meant because there's no context. they would look stupid shooting air fadeaways if it weren't for capo. if he did a track called "desmond howard" everyone would be doin this.

if basketball's universal dominance was so apparent, why did it take a rap video to inspire the move?

people in other sports imitate basketball more than basketball imitates other sports. that's undeniable. there is an asymmetry. might be because of Jordan, but no one ever would say that any NBA player is the Babe Ruth/Tony Dorsett/Pele of the game.

NBA basketball is organized style fueled by individualism. other sports, and I would argue music, as well are trying to get on that level in a way that only NBA hoops have mastered.

i'm really not seeing how nba ball is the only "organized style fueled by individualism" on earth. how is the wu-tang clan anything but an organized style fueled by individualism?

the reason the nba gets more attention as such is because, as previously mentioned, professional sports are pretty much meritocratic. you can't change the game without being the best, like jordan did. a lot of rappers and politicians changed the game (and built up large cults of personality accordingly) but with sales and/or votes widely acknowledged as poor measures of success, there's no defining who is "the best". stats aren't perfect, and I know a given ballplayer's dominance is more than his numbers, but a PPG is more indicative of how well someone shoots than "punchlines per verse!" is of how well someone raps.

you're right, people make a lot of basketball references, but that's more a function of the sport than of its universality. people say a lot of things taste like chicken because they taste like chicken, not because chicken is the lens through which one sees (tastes?) all other meat.

brown rec: a group called little brother from north carolina, no less. IT'S ALL SUBTEXT. (ps you heard the chops remix of "show me what you got"? it's right up yr alley. zing!)

At 11/27/2006 5:43 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

DE Neil Smith used to imitate swinging a baseball bat after sacks.

There's a practicality to the game that makes things different, too. Football is a big play sport, with short breaks after each play. There are plenty of plays that are "celebration worthy," and enough time to celebrate.

Basketball is a sport made up of many 1, 2, and 3 point plays, so there aren't as many "celebration worthy" plays (compare the number of FGs in basketball to a TD or sack in football), and players usually immediately have to get ready to do something else after a play because there's not usually a stop in the game.

Furthermore, how exactly would a basketball player imitate a football player? It's easy to dunk a football, or imitate a jump shot. What's a basic move in football that could be imitated?

Ockham's razor, I know, and it takes away from your "basketball is the greatest and everybody knows it" interpretation, but probably right nonetheless.

At 11/27/2006 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gross generalizations:

Basketball is a black sport. Black people rap. Black people try their outmost to be unique/stylish (see names, cars, bling). Every black male has tried to rap/play basketball. 90% believe they are skilled at both.

In Europe and SA, soccer is (king) the white persons basketball. I'd bet in Dirk's youth his teams did a suc-e-suc-e-suc-e-suc-e-hoy-hoy-hoy before games, Tony Parker sported a shek puma jump suit, and Manu perfected the flop because we can all be certain soccer was the sport/style that most related to them.

Black ballers want to be rappers, rappers want to be ballers, white people are boring.

At 11/27/2006 6:20 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

some disjointed thoughts on my way out the door:

anonymous, your post is thought-provoking because it makes me realize that international players run texas. strange.

the whole "gesture" thing is just one illustration of the asymmetry between other sports imitating bball and not the other way around. one discredit to this example that no one has raised is the old MJdynasty bulls layup line. during the 15-minute pregame drill, i believe it was paxson who would get down in a catcher's stance, one guy would throw the ball to him like a pitcher, and another guy would stand as the "batter" and swing through the pitch. that was fresh.

other examples of/reasons for the asymmetry (which i've pretty much already touched on): people would rather be able to slam dunk than hit a home run. scoring is highest in the nba, yet other sports the goal is still to score as much as possible. individualism is inhibited the least in the nba. jordan is the standard for "the guy" in other sports, not gretzky, babe ruth, or johnny unitas. kg compares himself to peyton manning, but that's just stupid and ironic, because both are known as great individual talents/chokers/can't get it done in the playoffs.

wu tang clan is one of the best examples of music-based-on-sport out there. maybe in this case basketball doesn't apply, but they got their whole identity from competitive fighting.

music and politics aren't meritocratic? we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

and just to amend my point about nba basketball being the closest thing to immortality. it is so in a way that makes immortality seem possible and believable, in a way that "kobayashi eating hot dogs + david blained holding his breath = superhuman" is not. like kids go out to the park and feel like they can "BECOME" god-like through imitating a dunk they saw on TV, but kids rarely try to perform freak acts to reach superhumanity, except like, trying to fly by jumping off the bed (again, akin to basketball).

At 11/27/2006 6:50 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

Pro wrestling?

Basketball fans (and athletes in general) are big wrestling fans. Karl Malone, Rodman, LT, (maybe Pierzinski?) have gone out of their way to participate. Athletes in all of the major sports model celebrations on pro wrestling: Hulk Hogan flexes and, of course, the Piston's championship belts.

I was thinking about this in relation to DLIC's claim that kids don't pretend to be superhuman except as basketball players. Well, in addition to jumping off their goddamn roofs in backyard stuff, they do all sorts of flexing in front of the mirror, practicing moves on each other, announcing their own ring entrances. Pretty huge racial crossover here as well.

All of this probably goes more for 5 years ago, but still. Chances of a player in a league being a WWE fan is probably greater than him being a fan of another sport.

Maybe this all points to the void left by boxing. Gil's robe notwithstanding, it might be pretty much gone from confidence, but still, supermen: Jordan and Ali, right?

Or maybe this points to the fact that being superhuman is a concept best left to cartoons.

At 11/27/2006 7:08 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

Should have previewed.

I meant "basketball PLAYERS (and athletes in general) are big wrestling fans."

and I don't know what "gone from confidence" means, tho it sounds kinda cool. Meant "gone from consciousness."

At 11/27/2006 7:55 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Art in general is NOT meritocratic, almost by definition. Merit means achievement, and art when distilled leaves acheivement aside in favor of the expression. Merit in art is incidental and can only be measured on a billion individual scales.

The boxing thread? I don't know if it's fair to bring boxing in, being an individual sport. Didn't we do this with tennis already? Although if anyone wants to continue with it, I could try to recast some thoughts I never got to write down before, namely regarding Pernell Whitaker, the archetype Zen athlete.

At 11/27/2006 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thrust of "ballin" as Jim Jones musical trope is: Like certain NBA greats, I have come up in the world from humble beginnings and forced my way into luxury, while retaining my atavism, self-possession, and decidedly thug instincts. It's basically saying "I'm still outside the system and yet I'm raping it."

Pro basketball players are usually the stars of this story as it plays out in the media and in Stern's nightmares. This is why everybody from your white suburb to your NFL end zone is calling down the power of the gesture.

wv=jteyy Isn't this a line from young jeezy

At 11/27/2006 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, but wouldn't you say that it's easier to rap than play ball? Basketball players with the means and the money (aka all basketball players) can spit some rhymes and sell a few copies fairly easily, thus becoming professional rappers. To make it in the NBA, you actually need to have talent...or you simply won't make the L. I agree with you DLIC, I'm just saying...

At 11/27/2006 11:01 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Sigh. Am I really going to have to be the one to bring up Master P. Makes me want to say ugh (na na, whatever)...

Anon said the proverb of the streets: "All athletes want to be rappers, and all rappers want to be athletes". Period. If a rapper could break into any sport, they would. Chances are given the backgrounds of most rappers, chances are that sport would be basketball by personal experience (unless they're from Florida, than maybe you might see a rapper who wants to be a NFL lineman) - if the rapper is from a hood, chances are he played b-ball more than anything else.

And let's not forget the King everyone wants to emulate wanted to be a baseball player for a few years there during the first retirement/suspension...

At 11/27/2006 11:30 PM, Anonymous Tim R said...

Apologies if this is sacrilege for me to say here, but the Endy Chavez catch in Game 7 of the NLCS = the most amazing sports play I have seen all year. But god-likeness is in the eye of the worshipper, naturally.

In my opinion, "Threat" is way better than most of Kingdom Come. Young HO used to be the Michael Schumacher of the ROC roster, but this record is Sam Bowie.

At 11/28/2006 1:38 AM, Blogger T. said...

In Europe and SA, soccer is (king) the white persons basketball.

Ah, but football/soccer is no longer just a white man's sport - Henry, Drogba, Ronaldinho, Ashley Cole. Actually in SA, especially with the predominance of Brazil - it never really was a white man's game.

At 11/28/2006 2:11 AM, Anonymous spider said...

Lebron and Shaq are also huge pro wrestling fans.

At 11/28/2006 2:13 AM, Anonymous spider said...

Also Boris Diaw and Eddie House dig rasslin

At 11/28/2006 2:22 AM, Anonymous spider said...

Sorry, I promise this is my last post. Add the bane of FD, Tim Duncan, and Mr. Freedarko himself, Gerald Wallace.

Secretly all of these guys want to be WWF(E) champion. They get their nutriment from the spectacle, the glory, the adulation. Wrestling fans bring ritualized signs, and purchase the merch of their chosen idols, in a bizarrely tribalistic fashion unlike any NBA fan.

At 11/28/2006 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think when you point to the whole idea of baaaaaaaaaaalllin your talking about basketball being "that sport". I can't see football or any of the other american sports coming as close to having the same effect as basketball because of it's fluidity.
Soccer is to euros what basketball is to americans because soccer is also such a fluid sport.

my two cents...

At 11/28/2006 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Gilbert Arenas' boxing robe before the wizards' home opener? Also, the predominance of the NFL as America's most popular sport leads to comparisons like this: "[Insert PG's name] is the quarterback of his team", or "He's playing linebacker style defense". We hear these kind of comparisons more often than not. Who's comparing special teams players to 6th men? I'm just sayin.

At 11/28/2006 10:40 AM, Blogger skinny said...

I don't want this to degenerate into a stupid line-by-line rebuttal deal. you're right on the asymmetry and on basketball's unique individual-as-team gestalt status. but I really think you're comparing apples and oranges on a few levels.

the jim jones motion is entirely tangential; dude also says "flossin" but pretending to floss your teeth is hard if you're not a professional mime.

also neither sports, music, nor politics is entirely meritocratic, but sports is much closer than the other two. good music and good politicians often get the sales/votes they deserve, but campaigns get sabatoged with outright lies, and good albums get shelved for years for little or no reason.

pro wrestling, however, is the purest form of sport out there. john cena for mayor.

(nlawnp = no lawn problem!)

At 11/28/2006 11:30 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i haven't really been present for all of this discussion, so excuse me in advance if overlap with anyone. to me, though, i don't see what the problem is. kids grow up dreaming of the slam dunk, the fadeaway, the block. these are dramatic gestures with universal resonance; somehow, they exist outside of the rules and order of the sport. football just doesn't offer much like that, it's not the same wellspring of abstract symbolism. hence basketball matters to everyone on some very basic level.

baseball when it mattered had some of this: calling the home run, the basket catch, the fastball. . .

and rappers used to be able to bring this themselves, but now apparently they need sports to feel like they're making those kind of moves. and they're about lifestyle, not art or expression.

At 11/28/2006 11:54 AM, Blogger skinny said...

and rappers used to be able to bring this themselves, but now apparently they need sports to feel like they're making those kind of moves. and they're about lifestyle, not art or expression.

except strahan and em were borrowing a move they got from a rapper, who was at best paying homage to a shot that happened a decade ago.

when ocho cinco's next td dance is an imitation of this dunk or makes a kid lebron reference, i'll agree with you. but as it is, basketball and rap are peacefully coexisting worlds.

At 11/28/2006 12:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i meant basketball, not sports.

jim jones imitates jordan, strayhan imitates jones imitating jordan.

1. basketball
2. rap
3. football

and my better point was that "ballin'" doesn't signify anything having to do with rap-tastic expression, it's about being able to play football in as dramatic a way as jim jones stumbles around through drinks and drugs. which is as dramatic as jordan, but not in the way that chuck d likened himself to barkley. that was peaceful coexistence.

WV: dupdom=state of taking "ballin'" as one's reference point for expressiveness

At 11/28/2006 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nineteen eighty-four introduced to the sports-gobbling world three of the most unique, and irreproducible, players the game has ever produced: Jordan, the Babe Ruth of basketball;" -Bethlehem Shoals, "In Our Brave Firmament, A Mole Lurks," From McSweeny's 4/13/06

At 11/28/2006 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't sex just trump all anyhoss?

This super-liminal dominance of bball trop just feels like crotch grabbing to me, bc apparently the popular heavensent feat would be to drive a racecar covered in adverts.

But honestly, the more FD posts about how basketball isn't jazz, the more I am prone to think that it is. Any meta canbe give its whatfor, but I have yet to see FD present a better model.

Basketball as model for itself isn't cutting this particular mustard.

At 11/29/2006 2:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

s'more evidence: gnarls barkley

At 4/13/2009 5:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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