Headbands at Half Mast: LeBron James Shaved His Head
On Wednesday, the greatest rivalry in sports came to a sudden close. On the day the Golden State Warriors celebrated their championship with a parade through sunny Oakland, LeBron James at last defeated his greatest foe: his own hairline.
This day has been a long time coming. For an idea of when the 32-year-old James last had a full head of hair, refer to this 2003 photo, which shows him sprinting away from Toni Kukoc, who won three NBA championships in the 1990s playing alongside the bare-headed Michael Jordan. (Kukoc, it should be noted, had an enviable mane throughout his 13-year NBA career.)
Most sufferers of male-pattern baldness are allowed to confront their follicular battle on their own terms. Whether they take the loss with grace or rage, rage against the balding of the pate, these men have the luxury of anonymity—no one cares about their plight more than they do themselves. LeBron, on the other hand, has been on live television at least 82 days a year since he graduated high school. The national conversation about his hair has spanned the terms of three presidents.
Bear With Kevin Durant, He’s Still Learning How to Celebrate an NBA Championship
Kevin Durant had a pretty darn good NBA Finals. He averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game and was named the series MVP. It was an emphatic ending to the high-pressure season Durant chose for himself after moving to the Warriors from the Oklahoma City Thunder in July.
The last time we saw Durant in the finals, things didn’t go his way. Five years ago, he came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat to LeBron James and the Miami Heat—LeBron’s first championship. After that series, his mother Wanda waited in the tunnel to console him. It was a candid embrace, and it became one of the more memorable off-court moments in recent NBA Finals history.
This year, the result was different, but Wanda was by his side again. It was a lovely moment, something that, according to Durant, he’d been willing into existence since the age of 8.
The Warriors Flash-Fried the NBA, and They’re Just Getting Started
On July 13, 1978, Soviet scientist Anatoli Bugorski was just trying to do his job. He worked in a lab with the U-70 synchrotron, the Soviet Union’s most powerful particle accelerator. When one of the machine’s many complicated parts suffered a malfunction, the 36-year-old scientist stuck his head inside to see what went wrong. Unbeknownst to him, the accelerator was still on, and a proton beam that was traveling at nearly the speed of light hit him directly in the face. According to a report, he saw a “flash brighter than a thousand suns” but felt no pain. He survived. The beam, meanwhile, passed clean through Bugorski’s head and continued on its merry way as if nothing was there.
Anatoli Bugorski is the NBA. The Golden State Warriors are the proton beam.
It’s not the Warriors’ fault they flash-fried the league. That is precisely what they were designed to do. You don’t add Kevin Durant to your 73-win team to eke out a few wins here and there. The 2017 Warriors were engineered for devastation. If you’d assembled them in your garage, representatives from the Department of Defense would come knocking at your door, and they would be wearing hazmat suits.
How Filthy Is the Trash Talk Between the Cavs and Warriors?
The Warriors and Cavaliers are in the midst of their third-straight finals matchup, so you’d expect them to be trading plenty of heated barbs. Familiarity breeds contempt, etc. The lopsided nature of the first two games, however, meant there was little opportunity for a free-flowing exchange of mean-spirited repartee. But since Game 3 this resurgent Cavs team has shown it has come to play, and everyone is starting to get mean again. To celebrate, let's examine some of the choicest insults hurled out by players, fans, and sentient bar signs.
1. “Draymond Sucks” chants.
Cleveland fans serenaded Draymond Green with this ditty after he picked up his fourth foul on Friday.
While this is a very simplistic sentiment, you have to give the fans a break, as it’s hard for 20,000 people to communicate complex insults in unison. “DRAYMOND’S EFFECTIVENESS AS A PLAYMAKER IS A RESULT OF THE WARRIORS’ SHOOTERS AND THE SYSTEM IN WHICH HE PLAYS. HE WOULD BE A SERVICEABLE BUT RELATIVELY ANONYMOUS PLAYER ON MOST OTHER TEAMS” just doesn’t work as a chant.
Trash talk grade: C (although Draymond bobbing his head to the “Draymond Sucks” chant is an A+ response)
When Should Warriors Fans Start Getting Nervous?
Warriors fans are already freaking out a little bit. Well, I should probably qualify that statement: Warriors fans I’ve talked to are already freaking out a little bit. Actually, for the sake of journalistic integrity I’m going to have clarify that the Warriors fans I’ve talked to won’t say they are freaking out, but I can tell that, deep down, they are. “I think Warriors win in five,” a friend texted immediately after the Game 4 defeat. “But if they don’t”
There was no punctuation. He just left it hanging there.
This was supposed to be a sweep. The Cavaliers had their shot in Game 3, but a furious Warriors comeback slammed the coffin lid closed. But Golden State couldn’t hammer in the nails in Game 4, and the memories of last season are still lingering for Warriors fans. Blowing a 3-1 lead was a crushing embarrassment. Letting a 3-0 lead slip away? It would be unthinkable, were it not for the fact that everyone’s already thinking about it. Except Steve Kerr. Allegedly.
“It’s a totally different situation,” the Warriors coach said after Game 4. “Different team. They’re a different team, also. We’re in a much better position. We’re healthy. We’ve got Kevin Durant.” It’s true. No team that has Kevin Durant has ever blown a 3-0 lead to the Cavs in the NBA Finals. History is on Golden State’s side.
So, when should Warriors fans start to get nervous?
Kevin Love Has His Own Logo, and There Is a Tree Involved
Kevin Love is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds in the NBA Finals while shooting 43 percent from three-point range. His defense, which has long been considered a weak spot, has been passible—at times it has even been good! Kevin Love is a very talented basketball player. But is he have-his-own-logo good?
LeBron James Does Cool Dunk; Fans of Cool Dunks Go “Yes!”
With the Warriors and Cavaliers combining to score 154 points in the first half, Friday’s Game 4 had the feel of an All-Star Game from the start. And then LeBron did this in the third quarter.
I can’t decide what the best part of this play is. Is it the borderline-sociopathic level of calm LeBron displays while executing one of the most insane dunks in finals history? Or is it Mike Breen, who manages to call such an absurd sequence—“James, drives, scoop layup, PASS TO HIMSELF, AND HE THROWS IT DOWN!”—without missing a beat?
The Warriors Have a 3–1 Lead in the 2017 NBA Finals. Dear God.
The Cleveland Cavaliers staved off elimination on Friday night with an all-time great offensive performance. The Cavs scored 49 points in the first quarter and 86 in the first half—both finals records—on the way to a 137-116 win, getting stellar performances from LeBron James (31 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, one off-the-backboard dunk) and Kyrie Irving (40 points, seven of 12 from three-point range).
The series now heads back to Oakland for Monday’s Game 5 with the Warriors up three games to one. That's a familiar scenario for these teams. The symmetry is almost poetic. Ahem.
Who Wins in a 3-on-3 Tournament: Golden State or Cleveland?
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee announced that men and women’s three-on-three basketball will be one of 15 new events debuting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. These scaled-down basketball games are 10 minutes long and played on half-courts with 12-second shot clocks. According to the official Olympics website, three-on-three basketball is also “typically accompanied by non-stop music, DJs and break-dancers.” Who are we to argue with tradition?
Details regarding eligibility are still scarce. It is unclear if professional five-on-five players will be allowed, or if it will be limited to amateurs and/or players from established three-on-three leagues. Either way, we like the U.S.A.'s chances.
It’s fitting this announcement came on the same day as Game Four of the NBA Finals. If Cleveland and Golden State were to restart the series as a three-on-three event, there is little doubt that we would have a far more competitive matchup on our hands.
For Cleveland, the starters are obvious. (You assemble a “big three” to compete in a superstar-loaded league, but it also comes in handy when it’s time to pick squads for a hypothetical three-on-three tournament.) Because so much of the three-on-three game revolves around one-on-one offense, an argument could be made that Kyrie Irving would be the top pick in a worldwide three-on-three draft. Kevin Love’s shooting and rebounding would come into play, and LeBron’s overall LeBron-ness can’t be beat.
Golden State’s team, meanwhile, is a tad trickier to choose. Obviously you need to include Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Like Kyrie, both can create offense at-will, and Durant has shown what he is capable of when removed from the staid confines of the NBA:
The third slot is where a decision must be made. Klay Thompson is clearly a better shooter, but Draymond Green has the edge when it comes to playmaking. Both are terrific defenders, but Draymond’s versatility and size means he wins the final starting spot.
FIBA rules state each team only gets one sub. Klay would get the nod for the reasons stated above, and Cleveland would probably choose J.R. Smith because, unlike the rest of the Cavs roster, he can dribble the ball.
Those teams are pretty evenly matched, at least much more so than their five-on-five counterparts. It really would be a toss-up. Unfortunately, because it’s first-to-21 and played with the shorter FIBA three-point line, a seven-game series between the Cavs and Warriors would take roughly 25 minutes from start to finish. There wouldn't be much action to watch, but at least it wouldn’t be a sweep.
This Video of Draymond Green, LeBron James, and 2 Chainz Is the Barbershop Experience Personified
As we creep closer to what seems likely to be a Golden State Warriors sweep of the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers—a feat that would fully suture the wound of squandering a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 NBA Finals—it’s nice to reminisce about a simpler, less dramatic time. I’m talking about NBA All-Star Weekend. This past February, the NBA thought it would be a good idea to host the league’s biggest three-day showcase in New Orleans during the full swing of Mardi Gras. This was not a time to be caught without a fresh cut.
During that frenzied period, LeBron James and Draymond Green were able to take some time off to link up with some clippers, get cleaned up, and take part in the time-honored tradition of opinion sharing and talking shit in a barber shop. In the midst of yet another furious, high-stakes on-court battle between the two 23s, the ESPN-produced clip of this session is highly entertaining.
Steve Stoute—a former record executive and current CEO of marketing powerhouse Translation—is tasked with stealthily moderating a slew of topics including basketball, the music business, the idea of “success,” and… more basketball.
Other appearances include Atlanta rapper and Hawks superfan 2 Chainz, LeBron’s business manager Maverick Carter, activist and Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams, and former New York Knick great Charles Oakley (as the resident old man). What ensues is a fantastic, candid peek into what an all-star gathering in one of the most cherished safe spaces in the black community— where you can speak freely and share feelings without judgment—looks like. It should also offer a full tank of gas for those who will visit their local shops to play armchair analyst on the morning of June 10, the day after Game Four.