Monday, February 18, 2013

Seven NBA Stories You’ll Never See

By Matt Thomas

As the symbolic halfway point of the 2012-13 NBA season is upon us, most self-respecting basketball devotee knows what's coming. Team beat writers cross the country and contributors to that four-letter sports-only network (that have, coincidentally, made careers restating the obvious to the masses) will be inundating their respective web blogs, column sites, and magazine editors with fluff pieces highlighting top storylines-to-be that my second-grade daughter could have presupposed had she been afforded some NBA TV face time and access to her Daddy's favorites link on the family internet browser.

Yes, Mr. Broussard, we are aware that the contenders will be scavenging the rosters of the non-contenders in search of the trade that will push them over the top. Absolutely, Mr. Stein, we are well aware that the underachieving Lakers are poised to make a run at the playoffs. Marc Berman, we are all acutely familiar with the risk the Knicks run over the long haul trotting out their geriatric roster. It's all so predictable yet year in and year out this is the sort of "hard-hitting" journalism we are subjected to.

I'm happy to say that trend ends here (or at least that trend deviates slightly from the norm here as I'm just as likely to follow this piece up with a missive that similarly lives up to the "states-the-obvious" standards made legendary by those aforementioned contributors, but I digress). Without further explanation, and in no particular order, I present for your reading pleasure the seven storylines for the second half of the NBA season that you are sure not to see as post-All-Star Break play resumes.

1. David Stern, Citing International Pressure, Decides to Stay Onboard as NBA Commish

Aside from Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Arvydas Sabonis, Andrew Bogut, Steve Nash, Nene Hilario, Rick Fox, Wang Zhizhi, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, Dikembe Mutombo, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, James Donaldson, Olden Polynice, Vitaly Potapenko, Manute Bol, Ricky Rubio, Vlade Divac, Andrei Kirilenko, Georghe Muresan, Michael Olowokandi, Rumeal Robinson, and my personal favorite, Uwe Blab, nobody has done more for international basketball than Stern.

Upon learning of Stern's intent to retire from his post while watching the only American basketball the international community actually pays attention to — the All-Star Weekend Events — Stern's cell phone was blown up by such visionaries as Turkish Basketball Federation chairman Turgay Demirel and Chinese Basketball Association Commissioner Wang Du. The latter threatened to "compel" Chinese legend and larger-than-life ex-Rocket Yao Ming to return to the mother land (Stern didn't have the stones to tell him he's been hiding the now retired star in his basement, paying him 20 cents an hour to glue soles on Nike shoes since July), while the former reminded him about the agreement they made under the table to provide gainful employment opportunities to the likes of Allen Iverson (to keep him out of the American basketball scene). Needless to say, Stern caved.

2. Jordan Cedes Title of "Greatest Ever" to LeBron James … Willingly

In somewhat of an upset, ex-Bull and one time "world's greatest athlete" Michael Jordan filed the necessary paperwork with the league office renouncing his rights to the title of "Best Basketball Player to Ever Live." In a press release, Jordan insisted, "Frankly, it was getting tiring anyway. I did some soul-searching and decided the mainstream basketball media was right, it really wasn't fair for me to make King James earn the moniker. Hell, remember Harold Miner?! I damn near gave him the title back in the day for similar reasons … anyway, I have my hands filled running this Charlotte franchise into the ground so it's pretty much a non-issue." Speaking on condition of anonymity, a person close to Jordan also claims that M.J. is considering relinquishing his title as "God in Basketball Shoes," but that report is as yet unconfirmed.

3. "Birdman" Undergoes Radical Operation

Miami Heat backup center/forward Chris Anderson, a.k.a. "Birdman", is in stable condition following a ground-breaking new procedure aimed at removal of the colorful player's many tattoos. It had grown increasingly clear that the tattoos were a distraction both on and off the court as Anderson's production had been on a steady decline since the All-Star Break. Anderson stated, "At some point, you realize that another multi-year drug suspension could come from the league office anytime, and there is no way that the losers I run with will ever take me seriously with all these crazy tats if I'm no longer a celebrity." Anderson goes on, "You learn early in life that there is a very fine line between eccentric and insane, and typically that line is best defined by one's ability to 'make it rain' in a strip club, if you know what I mean. No NBA means no cash and no cash means this body art would create a perception of crazy around me that I just couldn't overcome."

Teammate LeBron James, when asked for a comment, interjected, "Tats are trendy, tats are cool, tats allow you to appeal to a wider audience and allow you to connect with the inner-city, even for those of us who grew up living large and way above the poverty line. But Birdman, he just took it a bit too far … I mean, not even the hardest core gang-banger wants to see some lily-white dude sporting so much color. Not only that, his ink was beginning to draw far too much attention for my taste. There's just so much attention that can go around, see, there's just not enough for everyone."

4. Experts Find Link Between Lens-less Glasses and Brick Laying

A recent study completed by MIT has found a definitive link between those silly prop glasses that have infiltrated pop culture and a shocking drop in NBA players' ability to shoot. "The medical term is 'Acute Corneal Retardation,'" explains Dr. Richard Head of MIT, "and it is a symptom of a larger problem we call 'Trendyus Assenineia' that has infected the young and wealthy, particularly in the rock music and professional athletics disciplines." Dr. Head continues, "The brain recognize the large, gaudy rims and in turn instructs the cornea to shape itself in a way more conducive to viewing the world through a glass lens. But since no glass lens is presence, the cornea's now elongated structure creates a false perception of what it is viewing.

This condition manifests itself in many ways and, oddly enough, these manifestations vary largely between professions. For instance, individuals in the music industry tend to become far less picky about their potential female companions (a condition similar to "beer goggle-itis"), whereas in professional basketball, it becomes more difficult to make a mid- to long-range jump shot."

Dr. Head did add that typically the effects may not be seen for a long time, but noted the early-warning signs. "The first sign that something may be wrong and a person may be suffering from Acute Corneal Retardation is a wild variation in effectiveness on the court. Someone like Russell Westbrook, for example, who is prone to wild deviations in his shooting percentage both within games and from one game to the next is a textbook example of a person whose symptoms are consistent with one who suffers from ACR." It's clear, through this report, that the Kevin Durant's of the world need to do a stylistic U-turn if they wish to maintain their status as elite shooters … let's hope players like K.D. take heed.

5. Lawsuit Filed Against Jeremy Lin, James Harden

Recent documents were uncovered in a Houston, Texas court house confirming an earlier report that a lawsuit has indeed been filed naming Lin and Harden as co-defendants, citing both for copyright infringement. While the presence of the suit was previously identified by Houston newsman and blogger Isiah Carey, many wondered about the specifics of the lawsuit including who the complainant was. It turns out that the suit is for the use of the term "Beard-sanity," a moniker that local basketball fans have used as a show of affection for their two new high profile Rockets.

Harden, a.k.a. "The Beard", and Lin, who was responsible for the "Lin-sanity" craze that was in full throat during the 2011-12 season, became teammates late in the 2012 preseason and immediately the fan base and media outlets came to combine the two nicknames, thinking they had created a creative new word. However, this lawsuit contends otherwise and, more interestingly, was filed from an unexpected locale, the Supermax Prison Facility in Florence, Colorado. The suit states, "There has been and always will be only one 'Beard-sanity', combining the class and elegance of the beard with the unpredictability and excitement of insanity. These two man being paid to play a child's game are mere ants on the farm that is planet earth, and their insignificance is quite undeserving of any kind of fancy nickname, much less one already claimed quite capably by a man of my stature and fame." The complainant associated with that lawsuit? None other than Mr. Ted Kaczynski (you may remember him as the Unibomber), the original and undisputed "Beard-sanity."

6. NBA Slam Dunk Participants Poised for Big Second Half of Season

With all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the NBA's All-Star Weekend, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is always a crowd favorite and is billed as the main event on All-Star Saturday. After those festivities end, few can question the sheer athletic brilliance of the participants. In past seasons, big dunk contest performances have bled through the All-Star Break, carrying stars such as Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Blake Griffin on to huge post-break performances. 2013 will be no different, as this year's contest features Gerald Green, James "Flight" White, Terrence Ross, Kenneth Faried, and Eric Bledsoe, names sure to be on the tip of the collective tongue of the NBA's marketing machine.

Who can forget the one time, in a 25-point blowout, that White swooped along the baseline to dunk over Charlotte's Jeff Adrien? Or what about Green's season high 21-point performance against Utah in a 20-point win? And then there was 2013 Slam Dunk Champion Terrence Ross' season high 7-game stretch of playing 18 minutes or more per game in late January; memorable moments indeed. Additional intrigue about this year's contest centers around a statistical rarity … this year's competition features more past champions (2) than it does double-digit scorers (1)!

We can only hope that next year's event will bring together mediocrity, athletic ability, and an innate ability to miss several dunk attempts without tiring the way this year's did. Any way you look at it, one thing is abundantly clear: the six young men who wowed the crowds with their high wire acts on All-Star Saturday are poised to dwarf their first half production.

7. NBA Community Shocked by Revelation in Cleveland

What started as a clever marketing campaign has grown into a scandal that has rocked the NBA landscape. Cavs guard Kyrie Irving, the 2011-12 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 2013 Three-Point Shoot Out Champion, provided some levity to his reputation as a hard-nosed basketball star-in-waiting through his portrayal of Uncle Drew in Pepsi commercials … or so we thought. After a confusing tweet from a 65-year-old woman claiming to be Uncle Drew's long-lost love went public, Irving surprised the world when he not only failed to deny the claim, but called a press conference during which he wept alongside the woman and let loose a bombshell of his own. Kyrie Irving is actually the non-existent alter ego of Uncle Drew — or Drew Douglas Benjamin Franklin Jones as his birth certificate identifies him — and the old man with exceptional athleticism has fooled us all in pretending to be the younger Irving!

"It all started as a way to get into college," Jones explains. "I found my life and career as a paralegal quite unfulfilling and I recognized I needed to go back to school but couldn't afford it. So my lady here to my left and I came up with a plan to get a scholarship. We read about this kid named Kyrie Irving who was a star player at Montclair Kimberley Academy. After his sophomore year, we arranged to meet Irving and shortly thereafter he was arrested for grand theft auto and attempted murder. As a paralegal, I was able to work the system to arrange for his extradition to Australia, where he is currently serving time for his crimes."

Jones wouldn't comment on whether or not he or his love were involved in framing Irving for the crimes for which he was charged, but he did go on to give more detail on the ruse. "As soon as we saw that Irving was sent out of the country, I took on his name and Irving "transferred" to St. Patrick High School, where I was able to earn a scholarship to Duke, a dream come true for me. Sadly, Coach K was beginning to question some of my background during my freshman year, so I had no choice but to go pro after that one season. I never meant any harm to anyone.
This thing just got out of hand and I didn't know how to get off the ride. The commercials were sort of a catharsis for me, allowing me to be myself, even if just for a brief moment of time."

Jones ended the press conference by expressing his one true regret in the whole situation, saying that, "having to abandon the love of my life, the one supporter who was always there for me, was the one thing about this that I'd change if I had it to do over again. But at the time, I couldn't justify why a young man would be dating a woman 40 years his senior, so I had to let her go. That she didn't come out with this sooner proves the kind of woman she is and the manner of love we have for one another."

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