A Farewell to Lamar

New Orleans Hornets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Two

Lamar Odom is finished.

Yesterday, he was released by the Knicks, and 34 year-olds with conditioning issues and a history of drug usage don’t get another shot.

Lamar is in danger of being remembered as Khloe Kardashian’s ex. A relationship that started off as a idyllic pairing between a celebrity and a successful Los Angeles Laker, and has devolved into exhibit A for the Tina Fey theory that the Kardashians are Russian experiments to sabotage our athletes.

Khloe has since moved on to “Cocaine Mafia” rapper French Montana, and Lamar joins Kris Humphries in the embarrassment of watching his Kardashian wife move onto a rapper while they are still wedded in the eyes of law. According to Us Weekly, French has bought Khloe a new jeep and KK is looking to “get pregnant soon.”

But Lamar should not be remembered as the odd man out in the homeless man’s Kimye. He should be remembered as the Homo Erectus of the stretch power forward, a position whose modern evolution is Lebron and Carmelo.

As a 6’8″ forward who could run the floor, handle the rock, manage the offense, knock down threes, and check the other team’s second biggest dude, Odom was a nightmare matchup.

Brought over in the Shaq trade, Odom became a crucial cog of the two championship Laker squads (2009, 2010). As a Swiss Army Knife reserve, Odom allowed the Lakers to shape shift to match any opponent.

Lamar could replace Bynum to give the Lakers a pass-happy, wide open style with Pau facilitating in the middle, and Kobe creating in the space Lamar created with the threat of his shooting touch.

Lamar could sub for the artist formerly known as Ron Artest and give the Lakers an monstrous front line. Odom’s size and agility allowed him to overpower small forwards on the offensive end without getting burned on defense.

Lamar could come in for Pau and allow the Lakers to run an offense much like Dwight Howard’s Magic by putting four shooters around a dominant big (Bynum).

The season following the second championship, Lamar won the 2011 Sixth Man of the Year award.

Unlike teams that crumble when they turn to their bench, Lamar forced opponents to adjust on the fly to a new, but equally potent style of play.

Then, the Lakers attempted a blockbuster trade that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Odom to the Hornets. This trade was vetoed by David Stern for the ever-sketchy “basketball reasons,” and the trajectory of the league was forever changed.

This botched trade caused Lamar resent the Lakers organization and he demanded a trade to another contender. He wound up on the Mavericks, where his questionable fitness, weak commitment, and uninspired play led Coach Carlisle to declare him inactive for much of the end of the season. He played one last mediocre season for the Clippers, and has not found consistent playing time since.

Just three years after winning the Sixth Man of the Year award, Lamar Odom finds himself on the outside looking into the league.

We tend to remember people by what they did last. We remember Cobain, Hendrix, and Joplin as legends because our final memories of them are at the height of their genius. But, the primes of MJ (either one), Whitney Houston, and Mick Jagger have been tarnished by their post-prime life choices.

Because of his drug abuse, poor play, and struggles with conditioning Lamar belongs to the latter category.

But let us not forget the great player he once was.

Let us remember the game-changing super sub for a two-time champion.

Let us remember his skill set that defied conventional positions.

Let us forget Lamar, Khloe Kardashian’s estranged husband.

Let us remember Lamar, the champion.

Phil-Jackson1

Why ESPN’s Body Issue is Superior to SI’s Swimsuit Edition

prince-fielder-body-issue-cover

SI’s Swimsuit Issue is an American cultural icon, but is also, at its core, sleazy. Photographers and editors try to spruce up the content, by hosting the photo shoots in exotic locations or trying a novel approach to the model’s clothing choices (or lack thereof), but in the end, the Swimsuit issue is soft core porn hiding under the legitimacy of a Sports magazine.

But beyond its questionable content, the issue also glorifies an unsavory ideal.

Being hot is like winning a bingo game. It is a common occurrence that happens out of pure luck, but the person on the receiving end of that luck, tends to think loftily of themselves.

Because so many women are gorgeous, unhealthy living practices are required to be a model and set oneself apart from the amateur hotties. In order to drop down to a size appropriate for being professionally photographed in a bikini, women must starve themselves, complete draining workouts, and live in fear of gaining a pound or two.

nina-agdal-si-swimsuit-2013-print-07

Then, these dangerous-to-maintain bodies are enhanced further with effects that erase all blemishes and create artificial perfection. Women, though they have made great strides, are still largely valued for their beauty. And when their beauty standards are impossible, young girls grow up struggling with self-esteem as they fail to match the glorified images of falsified, professionally good-looking women.

SI’s Swimsuit edition holds up an ideal of an unhealthy and unrealistic body.

ESPN’s Body Issue does the opposite.

The athletes of the Body Issue are at the peak of health. They have eaten the right food, completed the right workouts, and conditioned the right way to obtain the body they have today. Unlike the models of SI, who seek to carve their bodies down until all that remains is a depleted frame that is attractive when garbed in a bikini, the athletes of ESPN seek to build their bodies so they may be the best at what they do.

These people are the physical apex of our species. They redefine the possibilities of humanity. They bring to life the idealized marble sculptures of Ancient Greece.

A phenomenally conditioned athlete is as rare as a hot girl is common.

There are millions of women with terrific bodies, but Dwight Howard’s shoulders, Serena Williams’ thighs, and Colin Kaepernick’s midsection are one of a kind.

Every day, the news reminds us of the many uncomfortable shortcomings of our species. But, when we watch sports, we can forget what we cannot do and focus on what we can. These are the people who remind us that humanity is capable of great things.

These are the bodies we should be holding up: bodies that have been sculpted by years of dedication in the pursuit of excellence. Bodies that are not just pleasing to look at, but that have been designed for a noble goal of redefining impossible.

ESPN does not just display slender, tanned models. They highlight the athletes of all sports to show that every body type is worth admiring. The Cover Athlete this year, is the rotund, but mighty Prince Fielder baring his tree trunk frame. The Body issue reminds us that no matter what the genetic lottery handed us, our body is a marvelous creation.

We should hope our children glorify these athletes: those who refuse to succumb to the social pressures of what is considered “attractive,” but strive to reach the peak of health.

SI’s swimsuit edition is a veiled criticism of ourselves that we don’t match the impossible standards set by the models. ESPN’s Body Issue is a celebration of the pinnacle of humanity.

Open up the Swimsuit mag for hotness.

Open up the Body Issue for beauty.

Jeremy Lin Don’t Get No Respect

Carmelo-Anthony-Toyota-Center

The Houston Rockets have a massive display on their stadium of Carmelo wearing a #7 Rockets jersey.

Perhaps it’s not the most clever marketing strategy in league history, but the message is clear, “We want you to play for us.”

This billboard might send the opposite message to Jeremy Lin, who, for everyone keeping track at home, already wears 7 for Houston.

This treatment is nothing new for Lin, who could sum up his entire career with Rodney Dangerfield’s immortal words, “I don’t get no respect.”

Despite a solid high school career, Lin was ignored by D1 colleges due to his slight frame and questionable athleticism. Harvard, who does not give athletic scholarships, brought him aboard because of his 4.2 g.p.a. The driven Lin became one of the finest players to ever don Crimson. By his senior year, he had developed into a complete player and was up for the John Wooden award and Bob Cousy Award.

After an impressive college career, Lin hoped to be drafted. He wasn’t. He was picked up by the Warriors, but used in a way that smacked of a being publicity stunt, as seen by Lin’s first minutes for the team coming in the garbage time of the Warriors’ Asian Heritage Night. Later, Lin was waived.

Lin then played in China, the D-League, and few minutes for the Rockets, until finally becoming a Knick. The Knicks were barren at the point guard position, and their play was anemic. In desperation, then-coach D’Antoni, performing his best Dr. House impression, tried something crazy, and played Lin.

Linsanity proved to be the saving diagnosis for the Knicks. In 26 impressive games, Lin captivated the nation and became a household name

After this stretch, Lin finally had some options. He tested free agency, confident that the Knicks would match any offer he received since he saved their season and New York tends to disregard silly league restrictions such as the “luxury tax.”

However, the Rockets offered a massively backloaded contract, and the Knicks balked, letting the most popular Knick of the last decade walk. Lin was replaced by the portly Raymond Felton, who has since given New York fans a lovely case of depression.

Jeremy-Lin1

On the Rockets, Lin has struggled to match his prior success, especially alongside his ball-dominant teammate James Harden. Occasionally, Lin has shined, often when Harden is injured, but Linsanity nowadays only has the occasional flare up. Last season, Lin filled the sixth man role behind Patrick Beverly whose defensive intensity is needed by the Rockets more than Lin’s creative offensive firepower.

In New York, Lin thrived because he slashed to the basket, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. On the Rockets, Lin has been created for, instead of doing the creating, preventing him from replicating Linsanity.

Lin may not be a superstar, but in the right system he can be the man on a cellar dweller, a starting point guard on a contender, or a poor man’s Manu Ginobli, captaining second units on a championship team.

With Houston aggressively pursuing Carmelo Anthony, Lin and his oddly constructed contract will be unloaded in order to make room for Anthony’s max contract. However, Lin has a suitor. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have punted the present for their future, have expressed interest.

Philadelphia-76ers-e1396006596244

The 76ers have unleashed an unprecedented strategy to create their team. In the past two years, they have drafted two injured, but tremendously talented centers, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. They spent a pick on the Turkish phenomenon, Dario Saric, who is still under contract over seas for a couple more seasons, but is an exciting talent. They have the reigning ROY Michael Carter-Williams, who they hope is not an example of a talented player dropping inflated statistics for a weak team, and next year, they have another high lottery pick. The Sixers have taken tanking to its logical extreme.

Jeremy Lin would thrive on the Sixers. Philadelphia replicates the desperate environment where Linsanity started. On this team, Lin will handle a lot of play-making duties. During the couple of seasons when the Sixers figure out how they are going to be successful, Lin will be one of the best players on the squad. Even his defensive woes can be negated by Michael Carter-Williams’s length and athleticism.

Ultimately, at least some of Sixers’ talented prospects will mature into larger roles, but Lin can be a constant for this team undergoing unprecedented change. The Sixers are risking a lot in the short term to ensure long-term success, adding Lin would bring consistency right now, and provide a steady locker room presence in the future.

Last season, no team was mocked like the Sixers, but if anyone understands disrespect, it’s Lin. This maligned team, and this under-then-over-then-undervalued player are both seeking to reestablish themselves in this league.

Should the Rockets land Melo and send Lin to Philly, alert the Center for Disease Control.

There could be a second outbreak of Linsanity.

The Iggy/Nicki Beef

nicki-minaj-allegedly-dissed-iggy-azalea-as-she-emphasized-artists-that-dont-write-their-own-songs-during-her-speech

At the BET awards, Nicki Minaj sent the world abuzz, when she threw the shade of an ancient elm tree Iggy Azelea’s way.

After accepting her award for best female rapper Nicki spoke about transcending the role of a “female rapper” into simply a “rapper,” which she has absolutely done with her extensive and lucrative track history.  On her feature verse on the “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” track “Monster,”  she out rapped the Hip-Hop dual monarchy of Kanye and Jay-Z. She has earned her place among the rap elite.

Perhaps because of her history of success, Nicki has felt a tad under appreciated as of late with the meteoric rise of the Australian sensation, Iggy Azelea, who has taken the world by storm with her omnipresent single “Fancy” and other solid efforts off her album “the New Classic.”

Azalea’s success led to the least hip-hop qualified magazine in the world, Forbes, to run the since-retracted headline “Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman.” It is a headline that is designed to get clicks, without really having any sort of factual basis. Azalea is a rising star in the game with a few popular singles and a solid album, but is lightyears away from controlling Hip-Hop.

Although Minaj dismissed Forbes and the headline, she had been bothered. These feelings surfaced during her acceptance speech for Female Rapper of the Year, when she proclaimed, “when you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it” then she did a head turn so sassy that Regina George would have been proud. Immediately after, she said “No, no, no, no, shade” but her apology had about the same weight as Luis Suarez’s promise to never bite again.

Many perceived this to be shade cast over Azalea, who although is credited for writing some of her tracks, is not credited for writing all of them, including her massive single, “Fancy.”

Minaj’s putting of the new-comer in her place continues the time honored tradition of rivalry in Hip-Hop. From Jay-Z and Nas to the tragedy of Biggie and Tupac, Hip-Hop has always thrived on a steady diet of beef. Hip-Hop is rooted on street corners where MC’s test their skills against one another in freestyle battles. The purpose of these battles, and to a larger extent Hip-Hop, is to prove one’s greatness, if it happens to come at the expense of another person, well, then so be it.

Beef has led to some of the most entertaining tracks of all time as MC’s are pushed to create a track that unequivocally dismisses the other and asserts their own dominance. Look no further than the nasty “Control” verse by Kendrick or the vicious “Hit ’em Up” by Tupac to understand that competition only makes rap greater.  Hip-Hop, like sports, is more fun when the people at the top of the game dislike each other.

nicki-minaj-iggy-azalea-thatgrapejuice

Nicki has become the blueprint of success for modern female rappers. She refuses to imitate male rappers, instead brashly exhibiting female strength that has gained her fans of both genders. At the same time, Minaj realized that at this point in Hip-Hop’s development, the best way for a female rapper to achieve fame is to have crossover appeal into pop music. She has put out tracks with the authenticity of real Hip-Hop that also appeal to the larger pop demographic.

As they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and no one has imitated the career of Minaj more than Azalea. Azalea has embraced this M.O. “Fancy” is a boast of femininity that features impressive spitting on verses that sandwich a pop hook that has been burned into the subconscious of Earth’s population.

Even their appearances are similar. They both emphasize their outlandish curves, sport long, flat, blonde hair, and dress themselves in colors and patterns so loud that Craig Sager might think they’re overdoing it.

This beef, like many before it, is not a big deal. It is merely two rappers at the top of their respective game marking each other as competition. Perhaps, Azalea should take Nicki’s shade as a compliment because it means that the reigning queen of Hip-Hop has identified her as relevant enough to address.

The beef would be promptly squashed by Azalea paying proper homage to the trailblazing Minaj, but its continuation is for the best. The aging of this beef will not only add a layer to Minaj and Azalea’s impressive discography, but also push two phenomenally talented artists to to prove themselves as the most dominant female rapper.

Beef, it’s what’s for Hip-Hop.