Kyrie Irving’s Uncle Drew is a raspy reminder of a romanticized sport, a pure chapter of skyhooks and bank shots that recalls an era of basketball long elapsed. A frail, hobbled man decrying the extravagance and exalting the fundamental miraculously taps into the fountain of youth and schools the “youngbloods.”
It’s youth clothed in mortality, a near-teenager draped in the ashen cloak of inevitable age. But as Kyrie Irving breaks, sprains, clatters, and fractures, his mortality is highlighted instead of hidden, and it threatens to derail the career of one of the NBA’s most promising prospects.
Irving’s truncated collegiate career is seen as an advantage by some, less tread on the proverbial tires. In 11 games, Irving scored 17.5 points per game and flashed the ability that made him a lock as the pole-sitter in the NBA Draft. By missing the majority of his year at Duke with a toe injury, Irving may have foreshadowed his own professional demise.
For a 20-year-old
kid man, Irving is a magnet for injury baggage, hoarding hard knocks and demonstrating a zeal for collecting ailments. Professionally, it was tabula rasa for Irving until February of his rookie campaign, when he greeted Dwayne Wade’s knee with his skull and missed time with a concussion. A subsequent shoulder sprain sidelined him for another 10 games in April; Irving said it was the same shoulder that he hurt sophomore year in high school.
Irving “only” missed 15 games in a lockout-shortened season, but the early injuries may be the tip of the iceberg. A brawl with a wall during a summer league practice broke Irving’s dominant right hand; a puerile lapse for a player who personifies a collected veteran in the media.
“It wasn’t so much a lesson,” Irving said. “It was one of those things that was just a freakish accident. Honestly, it could have been me being smarter, but going forward, I’m staying away from pads.”
I doubt the padding of the wall is as much of a problem as the conscious, aggressive decision to strike barely-cushioned cement, but even if his message is misguided, Irving’s intention to repent is sound.
After surgery on the hand, Irving carried a clean bill of health, save the wisdom teeth extraction that plagues young adults pedestrian and professional alike. Until November, that is, when a fractured left index finger caused him to miss almost a full month. He almost made it a full week before the latest dust-up, a collision with the hardwood floor where Irving fractured a bone in his jaw.
Along the way, believe it or not, he acquired the label of “injury prone,” but the fragile star insists he’s anything but.
“I’m not worried about being injury prone,” Irving said in October. “Not at all.”
It’s important to consider Irving’s rave reviews on the court along with his checkered injury history. Irving earned 117 out of 120 first place votes for Rookie of the Year, becoming one of 6 players in history to tally 18 points and 5 assists per game in their inaugural seasons. The others: Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson (would he write off Irving’s punch because it was only practice?), and LeBron James.
His stint on the USA Select Team, practice fodder for the Olympic squad, provoked unanimous adulation. James said that Irving stood out on the Select squad, and organizer Jerry Colangelo tabbed Irving as “a player you could move from one court to the other court,” referring to the stratified practice setting between Selects and Olympians.
“Kyrie always impresses me,” USA Basketball frontman (and Irving’s college coach) Mike Krzyzewski said. “This week, he’s been who I think he is, which is one of the top guards anywhere.”
Irving was born in Australia before moving to the United States, and has dual citizenship. He publicly pondered playing for the Australian Olympic squad, so it will be interesting to see if the glut of American guards pushes Irving to the dark side. Watch him destroy current guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden in this camp footage, especially the ridiculous spin at 0:26.
It seems that Irving doesn’t miss a beat when returning from injury. He torched the Lakers with 28 points and 11 assists in his return from the finger injury. In his first game wearing a giant mask to protect his fractured jaw, he makes Jason Kidd look like Uncle Drew before the bones stop creaking, en route to a career-high 41 points against the Knicks.
In Greek mythology, Kid Icarus had the potential to escape Crete, but pride and ambition led him to assume risk and fly too close to the sun. His wings melted, and he dropped from the sky and drowned. Kyrie Irving can become an NBA great if he can avoid the crash and burn.
In Greek language, the name Kyrie means “Lord”. Body willing, Kyrie Irving has the potential to rule the game. With moves like he ones he put on Westbrook and on Kidd, it’s “Kyrie eleison!”- Lord have mercy! Change the tone and the phrase becomes a mantra, a plea of Cavs fans wishing health upon their injury-riddled cornerstone. “Kyrie, eleison.”- Lord, have mercy.
By day, not-so-mild-mannered Delonte West is a NBA basketball player, a combo guard too small for shooting guard and too selfish to play point. West is notable for tattoos, somehow having red hair despite an African-American and Native American ethnic mix, thugging in a motorized tricycle with two handguns and (inexplicably) a shotgun, and reportedly copulating with Gloria James, celebrity mom to an apocryphal king. An antihero of sorts, pariah in a league that forces its players to wear suits and follow rules. But there’s a side of Delonte that exists away from the spotlight, where a burgeoning rap career transforms Mr. West into Charlee Redz, car aficionado and purveyor of optimal rhymes.
This week, 4 singles off upcoming mixtape Cadillac Music: Come Ride Wit (sic) Me were leaked to Slam; while one might think that hackers saw West’s compositions as grail, the leak occurred from within the Charlee Redz camp; more specifically, Redz himself was responsible for the breach. The unabashedly explicit “My Dually” begins by expressing Transcendentalist distaste for confinement in the studio and the label’s aim for an audience elevated 12 feet above traffic.
As a wordsmith, Redz drops a clever double entendre into the title. A “Dually” is a truck with four wheels on the back, typically tricked out in a display of gangster braggadocio. But lesser used is the Urban Dictionary definition, where a Dually refers to a woman shaped like the truck, possessing wide hips and a protruding posterior. Essentially, a pear-shaped figure. The refrain makes more sense when viewed in this context, with Charlee Redz heralding his affinity for “loud,” in arenas of both audio and cannabis, as well as custom rims and stacks of cash pledged to his dually. Life’s finer things.
Charlee Redz gets introspective with the creatively titled “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy.” He opens his verse insisting that his eyes are low, bringing his streak of opening songs with shoutouts to a plant banned both by the NBA’s conduct policy and Federal law to a perfect 2 for 2. But the line I find interesting is “This life fast, sometimes it comes slow/ so I wear a mask, so nobody know.” His intense and challenging rhymes try to conceal an important revelation, but it’s extractable if you pay close attention. By adopting the Charlee Redz persona, Delonte West is putting on his mask, “so nobody know.” With this, he’s able to segregate the pristine image of Delonte West, innocent child balling on a wire hanger hoop until his momma whooped him, from the swagged-out artist living life for the pleasures of the finer things in green.
The third track leaked is the thankfully brief “Texas I Like It.” Redz’ voice is distorted, taking it from a terrible track with monosyllabic rhymes and intellectually devoid lyrics to a deeper-voiced terrible track with monosyllabic rhymes and intellectually devoid lyrics. This song is literally everything abhorrent about rap. Concepts presented in chronological order: getting paid, hearing 50 gunshots last night, hardness in the hood, trying to get laid, haircuts, hats, enjoying stardom in Texas, using credit cards instead of cash to impress the “hoes on the poles.” This is the most gruesome Texan atrocity since the Alamo, or the death penalty, or Vanilla Ice.
As the saying goes, “Blood runs thicker than water and faster than Shaq.” Charlee Redz showcases his familial piety by including his uncle Rudy preaching the gangster gospel of being a man and wooing women. Highlights of Rudy’s message, combined with a soft backing track, include relationship dissolution, the struggle with body ideals, humanizing Tyra Banks, and mythological odes to Helen and the Trojan War. Rudy’s role is evocative of the teacher on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a sage who helps break down life for the audience (a classroom of children, as opposed to Uncle Rudy’s gangsters riding 12 feet high.)
Parallels can be drawn between West and Ron Artest, a baller on and off the court with his own rap label (more here.) The gig should feel stale, but I can’t help but be excited about everything Delonte West does. He falls somewhere between brilliance and outrageousness, and the spectrum is almost impossible to calibrate. His Twitter is routinely hilarious, consistently talking about everyday things like fixing driveways and binging on chili. Watching Delonte’s career is like watching the NFL with replacement refs, or Univision on mute. And that might be just the way he likes it.
Prolific urban crooner Usher Raymond IV achieved marginal fame in the 1990s, but he reached prominence after releasing 2004 mega-hit Confessions. It sold over 10 million copies, especially strong considering the crop of releases from that year, which included laudatory albums from Ashlee Simpson, martial artist and current celebrity sheriff Steven Seagal, and slightly drunk hood-hopping teen J-Kwon. Netting the highest grossing first week in R&B history meant that we got to see Usher just about everywhere- cutting the dance floor/rug on MTV countdown bonanza Total Request Live, graciously accepting trophies from the seemingly endless barrage of awards shows, and (perhaps in a nod to Ludacris’ pledge to “milk the cow” in Yeah) endorsing calcium-fortified nectar from a cow’s teat.
But in 2005, Ur-sher brought “the voice to make the booty go” to Quicken Loans Arena, helping to usher in a new era of Cleveland prosperity. “I look for Cleveland to be my home away from home,” Raymond proclaimed. Usher’s business arrangement with majority owner Dan Gilbert brought the requisite sex appeal to Quicken Loans’ tax empire, a seminal marriage of business and pleasure. During the honeymoon, Usher was at many of the games, invigorating the city with an awesome new hand symbol that really got the crowd going.
It was an exciting time for Cavaliers basketball. Fans would play Where’s Waldo, searching for the man with the flat brimmed cap. We had an exciting new owner in Gilbert, who could see that the team needed to spend money and was willing to open the coffers. A local talent who had yet to trade his hairline for an outside jumper. Even the pregame pyrotechnics let it burn in Cleveland.
As for my confessions? Let’s just say that I could shine in a Confessions karaoke contest if the machine malfunctioned.
But ever since the early flames of excitement burned out, it seems like Usher has had trouble finding his seats. After being at many games in 2005, Usher has been MIA on a nightly basis. Rumors surfaced that Raymond wasn’t able to pony up the 50 million he pledged to join the ownership group, or that he had a falling out with the organization after former coach Paul Silas booted him and his entourage out of the dressing room. Both plausible, but unconfirmed.
In 2006, after Usher lost interest in his new toy, his publicist told AP’s Tom Withers that he is still a minority owner of the team. A US News article from 2009 pins the blame for Usher’s absence on a n uncustomary culprit: volunteering. It alleges that between campaigning for Obama in 2008, the birth of his son, and trying to halt malaria in Africa, Usher is simply too busy to show any sort of public support for silly endeavors like basketball. Charity is serious business that quarantines celebrities from the spotlight for years at a time, as we learn from other prolific humanitarians like Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah, difference-makers who shun the spotlight.
But for a definitive answer, we tun to America’s biggest talking head (literally), George Lopez.
During the 2010 playoffs, Lopez proposes a friendly wager pitting the fortunes of his Lakers against the success of Usher’s Cavs, and Usher is “wit it.” Lopez states in the clip that Usher is still a part owner, and Usher brags about the Cavs “being rewarded the Eastern Championship Conference” as a picture of him with LeBron appears on the screen. For what it’s worth, James appears annoyed and disinterested with Raymond’s presence. Furthermore, Usher pledges allegiance to his fandom by accepting some serious stakes: If the Lakers do better than the Cavs, Usher’s wax figure has to wear a Lakers jersey for ONE WHOLE DAY. That’s a gamblin’ man who loves his team right there. After a needless Facebook tie-in, the clip ends with Scrawl So Hard favorite Ron Artest coming out, presumably to intimidate Usher with his dual cred citizenship as a both basketball player and member of the rap game.
So Usher is still here in Cleveland, but in some sort of bizarro sideshow where he could care less about the actual games. Usher’s influence could have been pivotal, but has instead dissolved into a mutually useless relationship between himself and the Cavs.
At this point, Usher, life is reflecting art- yours.
It's been a long time comin But we done been fell apart I really wanna work this out But I don't think it's gonna change I do but you don't Think it's best we go our separate ways
–Burn by Usher