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Narrative Me This

By on June 11, 2011

Two teams, putting nine months of grind, exhaustive hours of coaching, film, and analysis, with rote dedication to mastering what some call a game, culminating in a determined fight to prove your team is the best in the world, while enveloped in millions of obsessive fans cheering and jeering every move, tells a story on its own.  That effort, that focus, which extols basketball as an endeavor of peak physical greatness and strategic mental acuity should be what these NBA Playoffs are about.

Or do you need the storyline explained to you? I’d like to believe there are plenty of fans around the world able to watch one of the greatest Playoffs in NBA history on their own, who will allow the Game’s brilliance to shine on its own.  Yet, the way some media outlets would have it, we need to be told over and over and over again the pre-fabricated storylines, written by moneymen, agents, and marketing people.  Case in point: the narrative that the speedy highlight factory, who, admittedly, is a maestro around the rim, but shot less than 40% from the field this Playoffs, and only 25% from deep (though attempting over long balls 6 a game), and had half as many turnovers a game as assists, is not only the best point guard of all time, but the best player in the League.  At least that’s what ESPN and TNT were selling before Derrick Rose’s exit stage left.

But I wasn’t buying.  I’ll make my own decisions, thank you very much.  If I want to know which point guard can dominate like no other in the League, I’m forgetting the TV commentary and replaying the Hornets-Lakers series; I’ll let my eyes tell me the truth.  Even on replay, I’ll let my soul feel Chris Paul’s heart and drive to win, even if he does play on a small market team.

Being the best, apparently, is not enough. It’s location, location, location.  Take Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire.  Are they great players?  Sure.  But I don’t care any more about them because they play in Madison Square Garden than I would if they were still in Phoenix or Denver.  The only reason I do care about them is because the people who think a collection of superstars without any regard for chemistry or strategy will deliver a championship are looking for a point guard to get NY to the next level, and our very own Hornets’ small cannon is number one on their list.  The fact is, New York Cityites are convinced that they deserve the biggest, best, greatest of everything (well, who wouldn’t want to be a Yankee, Giant, Ranger, Knick, etc.?): without regard for the fact that Chris Paul is the personal savior of basketball in New Orleans, could be elected governor tomorrow if he retired rather than be traded to the Knicks, and is, in fact, small.  Though he is the best and greatest.

Man, I can still see CP and Trevor Ariza at the podium after beating the Lakers, all smiles.  That’s what it’s about.  Those post-victory smiles.  Still gives me chills.  Yet, for some strange reason, Chris Paul, sans New York, does not appear to be part of the manufactured NBA narrative.  Why?

Paul is one of the greatest point guards ever, a once in a generation talent.  Yet, before the Playoffs, he had one national television appearance this year.  Let that sink in.  The Knicks had ten.  And that was before they added ‘Melo.  Ten.  I don’t need to be told the storied history of the Garden, I don’t need to know how many points Kobe or Lebron scored their last time there, nor do I need to be told Willis Reed won’t be walkin’ through that door.  Fuck that.  I’ll watch in amazement as Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol dominate from the #8 seed.  I’ll watch Darren Collison show up the presumptive, and ultimate (albeit imposter) MVP.  I’ll sit, rapt, and horrified as the Hawks take revenge on a discombobulated  Magic, despite one of the most impressive series performances I’ve ever seen, as Dwight Howard, even in defeat, shot 63% from the field and averaged 27-16-2 (all the more impressive considering that the small six-game sample size was twisted by his 8-8-1 performance in that Game 5 victory).  Give me more Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and the baby Thunders.  Because I can see the excellence in all that, in itself.  On its face.  The story is already written.

But that’s not good enough.  I mean, we haven’t even gotten to Lebron as-I-prefer-”Viscount” James.  His rise and fall is pre-scripted, and should be a TV movie any day now; or a Japanese anime.  But, it’s surfeit; even “professional writers” can’t say anything about James any more without just being penned paparazzi.  Some people call this hating, but I simply don’t be need to told anything about James at this point.  Literally.  I’ve already been told everything I need to know about him.  He’s greater than any player ever, and he was MVP the day he was born.  Yet, he’s never won championship.  Kobe has 5.  MJ 6.  Bill Russell 11.  So when you’re doing first name greatest last name ever calculus consider that Shaq won a championship with Kobe, Kobe won with Pau, Wade won one with Shaq, but Lebron couldn’t win even with Shaq.  (P.S.: never listen to Drake.  But I digress.)  The narrative, though, tells us that three great players (Wade, James, Bosh) can take a roster of 2 (Haslem, Chalmers), and a cast of hangers-on, and, through Pat Riley’s force of will, win a championship.  Or as Lebron predicted: eight championships.  You know, more than Michael and Kobe, but less than Bill Russell.  At least the man’s humble.

One problem: the Heat aren’t a great team.  They have great players, sure.  And they have amassed a bunch of wins, but the Heat are a deeply flawed team.  Really, it’s the same equation as the Olympic team, but with different variables.  Those guys were not a great team.  (Except when CP3 rolled out the second unit; but, again, I digress.)  The key was they had twelve unbelievable players, at every position, and no one team could match up with that, no matter their coaching or cohesion.  The Heat, however, have three great players, and despite all their talent, not enough to tie them together to make them a great team.  All year, teams have proven they were beatable (including the Hornets), and the Playoffs have only exposed a horribly weak Eastern conference, where Rondo and Shaq’s injuries were the biggest keys to victory for the Heat, followed by an entirely overrated, if effective, Bulls team.  Funny thing is, Stern and the League got a gift from the results: a Finals consisting of players colluding to form a superteam, with others taking pittance to make roster; against the second highest paid team in the League, paying over $20M more than most teams, to put together this übermensch team.

What greater evidence could you have that the League needs more equity?  Greedy players and greedy owners are ruining parity.  The League needs to level the playing field and save itself.  And what better way to make that case by pointing out all the future free agents will gather in a few select cities, and that teams owned by willing-to-spend billionaires may just buy their way to a winning team.  The next three highest paid teams are the Lakers, Magic, and Celtics.  Remember a Finals before this year when none of these four teams were in it?.  Me neither.  On the flip side, Miami, New York, and Chicago are just the beginning for the talent emigration without a new CBA.

But the 2011 Finals themselves?  Unbelievable.  The closest Finals ever, and getting the high ratings it deserves, despite all the beat writers and TV analysts trying to tell us their stories.  But the Mavs and Heat have their own stories.  It’s in their eyes.  Anyone who’s ever questioned Dirk Nowitski’s will to win need only look into his greyish blue hues to be rebuked.  Same with Terry.  You can talk about his his “jet” antics all you want, but the look in his eyes reflects the tattoo on his right bicep of the Larry O’Brien trophy.

As for James, Wade, and Bosh?  Only Wade has the experience and wherewithal to understand his surroundings, but even behind the assassin-like edge in his eyes is a glimmer of entitlement.  As for James, that’s the only thing.  You see, he knew he’d make the NBA and be successful there (keep in mind, coming out of high school, we roughly figured DeShawn Stevenson would be the next MJ too), knew he could lead the NBA in scoring at will, get a few MVPs, and, of course, roll in the dough, er, I mean championships.  You’ll excuse me if I don’t let him dictate the narrative either, and refuse to use words rhyming with “mobile” and “icahn.”  Bosh, well, no hit on him, but he just doesn’t have “it.”  Ask Robert Horry, Manu, or James Posey about it someday, Chris.

The media herd of sharks, not content to go into a feeding frenzy at the sight of blood, is eager to write about said blood to create the frenzy.  These writers panning Lebron everywhere now were the same ones lauding him before this series.  All these “analysts” were saying how Lebron had put his fourth quarter woes behind him after the Boston and Chicago series.  Two series among six years of playoffs is not a reliable marker.  But it fit the narrative.  Create a star and tear him down.  It’s bullshit.  Just speak the truth from day one and you won’t have to worry about re-writing the storylines.  Similarly,  the lazy narrative of “whose team is it?” pervades.  The question should be how can Spoelstra scheme around Wade-James-Bosh, and how has he done it?  But that question requires analysis, not gossip, which makes it hard.  So the major media takes a pass.

Many League people, notably the Hornets’ Hugh Weber, have panned blogs and internet media as amateurs in their basements, wearing pajamas, barely worth the word “writer.”  But anyone out there who follows the games, who is connected on Twitter, and who reads enough blogs, knows that these people do a better job than 85.3% of major media, and 102.5% better job than TV analysts.  Personally, I’d like to read about how the Mavs’ late-game switches to the zone impact the Heat’s iso progressions; but, I guess some people prefer “Mama, there goes that man.”  Hope those people are Warriors fans.

So to those of you who have attacked the false narrative prevalent in the major media all year, and particularly now, in the Finals, my metaphorical hat is off to you ladies and gents.  To the rest?  Shame on you.  Journalism is supposed to be about what happens, described.  Imposing a forced version of that makes you no better than the people behind of the Rich, unrepresentative, Housewives of Wherever, at best; or, spitting empty rhetoric with no actual facts behind it, like Rush Limbaugh or so many “talk radio” personalities, at worst.  Anyone remember the pre-game interview with David Aldridge–when he may or may not have been drunk–alleging that the Hornets were demanding a new arena and that “many coaches” around the League were complaining about the officiating against the NBA-owned Hornets?  That fell into the latter category.

As for these Finals?  The coaches and players of two fine teams will deliver the final chapter to the 2010-2011 season.  But, if you want to skip ahead to the end, just look into Dirk’s eyes.

The Discourse of Lebron.

By on May 24, 2009

We all got played.  Have you ever seen a good Lebron Raymone James (“LRJ”) shot and turned to a friend, and just said, “Witness, dude.  Witness.”  Have you called him the “Chosen One?”  How about “King James”?  (I prefer Viscount James, but I disgress.)  Well, you got played.  In politics, business, and law, masters of language work hard to control the language, because when you control the words people use, you limit the choices available to those people.

A quick example.  Politicians love the term “Tax Relief” when they’re for tax cuts.  Why?  Because “relief” implies a malady which needs a cure.  How could anyone be against curing the tax “ills” of America?  Boom.  The language does exist to oppose that.  But if you re-frame the argument in terms of fiscal responsibility, and dispute the very use of the term, “relief” as loaded and avoiding the real issues inherent to taxation you can argue effectively by supplying a new language for the discourse.  Advertising does it all the time by using trademarks.  Product X has the new “SafeClean” system.  1) The company brags that no other product has it, which is crazy, because the “it” is a trademark, thus no one else can have it; and 2) people just accept that this product is actually “safe” because it has that word in the product description, which, technically doesn’t mean shit, it’s a name.  But people don’t look beyond the product name and how it’s packaged and are fooled.  My basketball point?  LRJ and his people are exactly those kinds of masters of language and we’ve all been clowned.
 

Art by Andre Moore

Art by Andre Moore

Bron-Bron tattoos himself with all his monikers and his publicity people put them out there, as ubiquitous as air and as often appearing as a bad Craig Seger suit: every time.  Then Nike puts it out there.  Then Vitamin Water puts it out there.  But what’s really unforgivable is that the national media does it.  This should be no different than when the news media was excoriated for using the term “Maverick” to describe John McCain, when his camp was the one to invent the term, and which was largely misleading because he voted with President Bush 90% of the time.  (Can you imagine if so-called objective pundits had said “Yes We Can” cover Obama’s campaign?  It was his slogan, so to have incorporated that language into anything other than the description of that slogan would have been ridiculous.)  My point here is that sportswriters should never use the terms “Witness,” “Chosen One,” or the like  in their articles.

Nonetheless, we get stuff like this, allowing the “Chosen One” metaphor to get out of control:

It changes the way we think of him, makes you want to proclaim, “He is ‘The One,’” as when Neo came back to life and made the bullets stop in “The Matrix.” From now on, anything and everything seems possible with LeBron. – J.A. Adande, ESPN.

Now to be clear, no beef against J.A., I like his work.  But really?  Does this mean LRJ is going to start shooting all his shots from the opposite baseline just because he can?  Don’t hold your breath.  LRJ is no messiah, just a good baller.  Maybe he should just start with free throws.

Here’s another one:

As if once wasn’t enough, the Orlando Magic were forced to watch LeBron James’ amazing buzzer-beater all day yesterday.  The Magic were witnesses all right. Again. And again. And again. – AP Report, Boston Herald.

Seriously, do journalists work for Nike?  It’s crazy.  We need to think about this, seriously.  The Big Nickname himself, Shaq, has more names than he knows what to do with, but they’re not nearly as self-promoting.  The Big Aristotle: trying to show he’s a thinker, not just a dumb giant.  It means something.  The Big Cactus: just a joke on the former nickname.  Dwayne Wade?  Shaq called him Flash to his Superman.  Okay, Superman’s a little self-involved, but it’s also not selling anything.  How about Kobe?  Black Mamba.  First of all, everyone made fun of it before it finally stuck.  Second, it’s supposed to be a metaphor.  He strikes fast and he’s deadly.  Fine.

But consider also that Lebron and his billionaire-minded camp manufactured his names before even playing a single NBA game!  At least the guys above earned their names.  To further prove my point, compare “Chosen One” to the “Great One” in hockey, Wayne Gretzky.  Gretz won eight consecutive MVPs and had more assists than any other player had points when he retired (in hockey points are a combination of both goals and assists).  Yet, again, LRJ had the audacity to call himself “great” before he even played a game?  Fuck, he could’ve ended up being Darko, there was no way to know.  The whole thing is ludicrous.

The worst part? LRJ doesn’t even encourage you to think.  He’s just the “Chosen One.”  The “King.”  No metaphor.  Just accept that he’s the shit straight up.  And as opposed to the inclusiveness of Michael Jordan–who, incidentally, didn’t need all these names because he let his play talk for him–whose corporate slogan was “Be Like Mike,” and invited us all to dream, all to share in his greatness, LRJ doesn’t want you near him.  Instead, you can just sit back and “Witness” his glory.  Sorry.  Other than in the context of linguistic discourse like this, or maybe just plain sarcasm, I won’t be using those phrases.

Lebron might score 50 tonight or hit another buzzer beater.  But it won’t change the fact that he’s a self-aggrandizing, arrogant man-boy who truly believes the world is Lebron-centric.  Fuck that.  We all have a choice over the words we use.  So don’t let someone else, anyone else, put those words in your mouth.  And national media?  Please, think a bit before you succumb to the lazy cliches that make you just another mouthpieces for LRJ’s self-perpetuating myth.

UPDATE 5/25/09: The Orlando Sentinel is on board!

Do Not Turn On NBA TV Today

By on December 30, 2008

No, seriously. Have you seen the ads for this? Because today is LeBron James’ 24th birthday, they’re doing 24 hours of LeBron, “a full day of around-the-clock LeBron-centric programming featuring games, highlights, classic performances and exclusive access to the Cavaliers’ superstar.” If you have NBA TV, you know I’m not making this up. It’s ridiculous. Here’s the network’s schedule for yesterday and today.

You know what? I have nothing against LeBron. He’s a great player. But the hype machine surrounding him is wearying. Handing out confetti to fans to throw like he throws chalk (a gesture which, as we’ve griped about before, he appropriated rather than invented)? Basketballs placed mysteriously all over the city of New York? I’m sick of him, and I don’t even think I’ve viewed more than one Cavs game this year. No, seriously. The only one I’ve seen is when they came to New Orleans Arena to play the Hornets. So explain to me how I’m so over him. Explain to me how I think, “Cavs… ugh” and switch to another game.

Could it possibly be the ubiquitous chalk commercial? Like, can I watch sports for 4 minutes without seeing this ad? Please?

So really, whenever I see the ad for this 24 Hours of LeBron nonsense, I just laugh. Because how is that different from every other day of life watching the NBA? Obviously, whoever came up with this campaign has a poor sense of irony. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re evil and trying to taunt us.

Really, my favorite thing about the NBA.com/Nike “Happy Birthday LeBron” article feature commercial is this quote that appears near the bottom: “I’m young,” James said. “But I’ve got an old soul.” BWAHAHAHAHA! That is just one of those things you aren’t really allowed to say about… yourself. Others can say it about you, yes. It may even be true. But how full of yourself are you, to claim that about yourself? I cringed reading that.

Whatever, NBATV. Way to completely whore yourselves out to Nike.

We can top this, though. Oh yes, HornetsHype.com can. What Hornet birthdays are coming up?

  • Tuesday, Dec. 30– Devin Brown: Oh, hey now, happy birthday, Devin! That must’ve sucked to be on the Cavs last year. I bet no one even got you a cake.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 13– James Posey: … Heh (pause)… Hehe… Now this is something I can work with. Stay tuned. Whatever, Nike. We’re gonna do twenty-FIVE hours of James Posey. Or wait, wait, wait. Are we doing it by age? Thirty-two hours of Pose! Even. Better.

Or, a huge mess of Hornets-related links, some more out of date than others but still notable, in final countdown form. Countdown to what? Hornets vs. Spurs, 8:30 PM. Be there. Or at least be watching on ESPN. #1 in the Southwest Division is on the line, as well as… some other things.

10. Jordan Brand CP3 II, v. 2.0 of Chris Paul’s shoe.

9. Hoops Addict game notes on Hornets@Raptors. Includes some fun locker room stuff. But whatever, guys. James Posey shot 5/6 from 3 in the first half. He can brush his teeth wherever he wants to.

8. Melvin Ely is bloggerific.

7. Tyson Chandler goes fishing. (In Plaquemines Parish! With video!) Update: More pics and behind the scenes stories here.

6. The Honeybees’ new website. If that kind of thing is your bag… baby.

5. Memphis fans drinkin’ the HATERADE. Bring it, guys! That’s when you know you’ve made it, when you got haters! And hey, look– there’s a way the Hornets are like the Spurs (see comment thread on previous post)– people hate us!

4. I have given up caring what these people think, but in today’s Daily Dime (scroll down to #6 on the right sidebar) there’s an audio clip of Jalen Rose on ESPN radio. He still thinks the Hornets and Lakers are the undisputed two top teams in the West, despite the Hornets’ start. Keepin’ the Movement alive…

3. The Popeyes Arena? The Zatarains Arena? The Abita Arena! Hornets are interested in finally selling the naming rights to New Orleans Arena.

2. The last time we met: This is what I wrote the day of Game 7.

1. Please, please, someone caption this pic of CP and Sual’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon defense on Rajon Rondo (you gotta click and biggify it to really get the facial expressions):

Hype International

By on November 8, 2008

Not content to convince America that Chris Paul and the rest of Hornets are the greatest thing since electricity, we’re trying to spread the Hype across the world. Or at least linking to those that do. You’ll notice we added an “All Hornets International” blogroll to our sidebar. So far, we’ve found German and Chinese sites dedicated to the Hornets and/or its players. So if anyone else knows any other great international sites dedicated to the same, let us know! We’ll add them to our links.

Also, if any of you can translate any of the languages on these sites for us non-speakers, we’ll be glad to re-post cool excerpts from those sites here, link to the original post, and credit you for the translation! Maybe this will help open an international dialogue about the greatness of our team.

¡Vivan los Hornets!

Abita Jazz Funeral

By on May 2, 2008

Consider me the rain on the parade. Consider me a hater in the lovefest that is Hornets-fandom. But our mission here at HornetsHype is to destroy all opposition to the perfect Hornets experience. Our mission is not yet complete. Although as Jim Eichenhofer at Hornets.com has pointed out, corporate sponsors are rolling in with the continued successes of the Hornets organization, one is conspicuously missing. It is a recent loss. At the beginning of the season it was there, but only like that sick relative who is just wasting away in a hospital, dying. And then, like a whisper in the night, it faded and was gone. And now, the New Orleans Arena no longer sells Abita Beer.

So I invoke one of the oldest of New Orleans’ traditions: the Jazz Funeral. Grab your instrument, put on your Sunday black best and march for a remembrance of an old and dear friend. Abita Beer.

The Death of Abita BeerSome would say this is a gripe better left for the after the season when the team has less to worry about. But let’s focus on of the image of New Orleans as a unique locale; this failure reflects on us all. We used to not only have Abita taps with four different brews at each Bacardi stand last year and early this year, with unique, full-flavored beer (any fans of Coors Light, Miller Light, Bud or Bud Light need not comment), but over the course of the year found these outlets limited to one on the 100 level and one on the 300 level. More than that, Pre-K we had a little Abita Brewpub in the Arena. It was awesome. Abita is awesome. It’s almost always stocked in our fridge and I’d bet it is in most New Orleanians’ fridges. And like many people, when I watch basketball, be it at home or at the arena, I enjoy a quality beer. A quality beer.

So bring back the Abita, New Orleans Arena. Be it trying to better represent Louisiana or just because you love beer. Bring it back because it’s the common sense approach to marketing. It’s a natural tie. Feature seasonal beers all-year round. It would be glorious.

Or at the very least, break out some Abita kegs at the Buzzfests.

[EDIT: no, this was not photoshopped. This happened in Treme. This morning. At dawn.  Unfortunately, the police broke it up.  It was sad.]

Just a roundup of the good hype I’ve read over the past couple days:

Holy Positive Attendance Article! In USA Today. Finally. I’ve been waiting for a bunch of these to roll in. Of course, the positive ones have been slower in coming than the negative ones that were all over the place during the winter.

CP3 = King of PER: Chris Paul leads, oh, everyone in the playoffs in PER at 32.36. Kobe and Dwight come in a distant second and third at 28.31 and 28.26 respectively.

Who Made You? with Tyson Chandler: Video here. LOL at lil Tyson looking exactly like now Tyson, minus facial hair.

Mo Pete/Bart Fun: In case anyone missed it (and you shouldn’t have, since it’s been various places including Sportscenter), here’s the video of the Hornets doing trick shots in practice the day after clinching the Dallas series. Along with bonus extras from Alejandro de los Rios. And– if you’re a fan of sketchy low-budget local ads– the original Mo Pete trick shot in the Morris Bart commercial!

Why Am I Not Surprised? … that after they spent 40 minutes doing trickshots, the Hornets broke out in a spontaneous dodgeball game.

I Told You TrueHoop Dispensed Hornets Love: And here’s more, in the form of a fun Mike James interview.

And One Bee-llion (Ha. See what I did there) More Links: … located at Hornets247.

And here’s a bonus: If you’re in the CBD and you’ve got a lunch break, there’s going to be a Hornets second line going through the Quarter, starting at Café Du Monde at 11:30 and concluding at Harrah’s. There will be Soul Rebels, Hugo, Honeybees, and our favorite SerbSicles. They’ll be tossing out giveaways (T shirts, car stickers, and such) too.

Enjoy your Fan Up Friday!

So I’m on my way to work, and I hear an unidentified Hornet on an Eric Hill Nissan radio spot. I’m like, “Oh, word. Another sketchy local ad featuring a Hornet! You know you’ve really made it when you get your own sketchy local ad.”

I missed the beginning of the ad, so here I am trying to figure out which Hornet player it was. I know it’s not CP3, West, Stojakovic, Peterson, or Chandler, because I know what they sound like. I know it’s not Pargo because he mumbles. I think, “What other Hornet is well-known enough to be in the Nissan ad, but at the same time not too cool to be in the Nissan ad?” I wonder to myself, “Julian Wright?”

On the drive home, I hear the same ad again from the beginning, and sure enough it’s Julian Wright.

Looking back, I should have known only the rookie is gonna have a Nissan.

So we’ve got JuJu in the Nissan ad, Mo Pete in the hilarious Morris Bart commercial (where he might be made of cardboard and the ball flies into the basket from the totally wrong angle), and CP in the A-1 Appliance ad (taking over from Reggie Bush). Are there any other Hornets in local ads that I haven’t seen/heard?

Taking the Hornets Love to the Streets!We took the good word to the streets for the parades this weekend. Did you?

Actually, there was a fair amount of Hornets gear out and about. Nice job NEW ORLEANS! We got some shout-outs from other fans who were similarly decked out. And the last float in Bacchus had a giant Reggie Bush and a giant CP3 on the front! Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera at that point and was unable to get a picture. Too bad the Hornets are out of town this week and couldn’t ride on any of the floats. That would have been a great way to get some local visibility… on the flip side, though, I doubt being in town this week would have done any wonders for our home attendance.

Hornets have dropped two straight for the first time since… geez, I don’t even know, here I was thinking they were unstoppable. They have a tough couple of opponents coming up in the Jazz and Suns. Let’s hope they can get their defense back on board…

Oh, and I almost forgot– we caught the big Tyson billboard on the way to the airport the other day! Sweet!