The Implications of Russell Westbrook At Fashion Week

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Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s unofficial delegate to Fashion Week in New York City. The velociraptor point guard has been attending shows and hobnobbing with designers all week. Westbrook attended the style extravaganza in the past, but now he stands among the fashion elite as a peer instead of a fan.

In the last year, the flamboyant point guard has released a collection with Barney’s that includes his extensive array of glasses frames as well as articles like a 1,750 dollar leather shirt, shoes, luggage. His collection samples the unconventional, intricate patterns of elephant skin, tight cuts, and black contrasting with bold colors, giving an undeniable hipness to his style.

Westbrook’s foray into fashion is a departure from the off-the-court creative ventures of NBA players in the past. Usually when ballers fancy themselves as artists, they choose Hip-Hop as their medium. But as Kobe, Steve Francis, and Chris Webber have reminded us, that rarely works out. Shaq is the only moderate success and he needed not only his rarely paralleled worldwide fame, but also help from RZA, Ice Cube, and Biggie to produce one platinum and one gold album.

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Russell’s designing follows O’Neal’s most successful Hip-Hop attempts (Shaq had unpopular follow-ups) in that he has sought advice from big names in fashion. Here he is with Tim Coppens scrutinizing Coppen’s most recent additions to his collection. Here he is posing with Phillip Lim at a show. Here he is with Alejandro Ingelmo studying footwear. While these names are unknown to folks perusing the sales rack, these men are prolific modern designers. The fact they are spending time with Westbrook implies both sides take each other seriously. 

Westbrook’s designing offers an interesting glimpse into what he may do for post-career prosperity. Most NBA players either lose their cash investing in their uncle Richie’s “can’t miss” business proposals, or cultivate mini-empires like Magic Johnson with his vast L.A. Real Estate holdings.

Westbrook’s designs could one day become a successful fashion line. His brand would parallel Michael Jordan’s self-entitled megabrand, but considering the fashion taste of the GOAT, Jordan appears to outsource designing and rely on his name-recognition to move product. Westbrook using his own creativity to generate looks not just for the court, but for all aspects of life, would be unprecedented. It is just the sort of bold and fascinating choice a young, rich, and famous man can make.

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C’mon Mike

There is really no comparison.

Killing it.

Westbrook would have likely never become a fashion name if not for a slightly racist dress code policy passed by former NBA commissioner David Stern that banned the Hip-Hop style of the NBA of the early 2000s. After the artist formerly known as Ron Artest orchestrated the Malice in the Palace, the league sought to change its developing “thug” image by requiring “business casual” pregame attire. The dress code is a decade old and Russell Westbrook has become the Allen Iverson of this shift from gilded gaudiness to top-flight designer fashion.

NBA players are in a unique position become fashion icons. They are paid millions to play an internationally popular sport that does not hide their faces and personalities underneath helmets and hats. Their unique combination of fame, wealth, and visibility often makes their style the topic of national conversation. With the considerable attention paid to their attire, NBA players influence fashion just by existing, Westbrook is merely taking an active role in shaping the culture. 

Westbrook’s fashion confronts stereotypes about his identity as a black male. He has reappropriated classic articles of white nerdy fashion like high button-ups, bow ties, and glasses into his modern black fashion. Westbrook has made it unclear if he is dressing “white,” or if the adolescent fans emulating his style are dressing “black.” In an ironic twist, the dress code has not made black players “whiter,” but instead made white style “blacker.”

With his fondness for tight cuts, jumpsuits, and capris, Westbrook also takes on masculine norms of fashion. Obviously, straight men typically do not dress like Westbrook, but it’s near impossible to find a less feminine body than the intense, hyper-muscular all-star point guard. The dress code was misguided, but it has killed the “criminal” image of NBA players and made them cultural shifters. 

Westbrook’s atypical style not only puts him at the cutting edge of fashion, but also bridges the gap between two of the most stark divisions in American society. His presence at Fashion Week is not just an NBA player rubbing elbows with high society, it is a beginning step to blur the lines between black and white, and gay and straight.

The Internet Made Donald Glover Spiderman

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Donald Glover will be playing Spiderman, a cartoon version of Spiderman in an alternate universe where his secret identity is actually half-black, half-hispanic Miles Morales, but still Spiderman.

The decision to cast Donald as the web-slinger comes four years after the social media campaign, #Donald4Spiderman. The hashtag crusade consisted of fans clamoring for Glover to be casted as Spidey on Twitter because his unique nerdy cool vibe gave him the natural range to portray Peter Parker’s switch from dweeb to stud.

Ultimately, Andrew Garfield won the role in the stylish remake, but one fan was not satisfied. Brian Michael Bendis, a comic-book writer, was inspired by the possibility of Donald Glover as Spiderman and created Miles Morales. So Glover is the perfect casting choice as he is the inspiration for the character he is portraying.  

In Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, Peter Parker, voiced by Drake Bell, is tracking the dimension-hopping Green Goblin through alternate universes. The Goblin’s goal is to destroy every shred of the Spiderman D.N.A. in any universe, ostensibly so his plans of world domination don’t continue to get mucked up by whatever it is Spiderman shoots out of his wrist.  Luckily, Parker runs into Morales before the Green Goblin.

This interaction is the first clip we have of Donald Glover’s voice coming from a character clad in a Spiderman costume. The clip is intriguing and despite Bell’s Parker sounding the same age as Glover’s Morales, the plot is set for some juicy dual webslinging action.

This foray into voice acting is the latest step in Glover’s plan to acquire such fame that “they say James Franco is the White Donald Glover,” a line he rapped under his Wu-Tang name generated pseudonym Childish Gambino.

Glover has ventured into just about every medium of entertainment. His rap career typifies the blurring of racial lines in Hip-Hop as he has been called a “white rapper” for his mildly pretentious, verbose, pop-rap style that is a departure from the gangsta rap of earlier eras. His albums have received lukewarm acclaim, but one listen to “Freaks and Geeks” and his abundance of wordplay talent is clear.

He got his start online with Derrick Comedy which lead to writing for the Pantheon comedy “30 Rock,” which led to portraying the lovably spacey Troy Barnes in “Community.” His fame in music, television, and comedy have multiplied each another as fans in one medium ultimately end up discovering that Donald Glover is Childish Gambino and vice versa.

Glover is a uniquely modern star. He got his start on Youtube and released his first mixtapes for free online. He started his career by doing what he wanted to be paid for; for free.

This Spiderman casting parallels his career path as the demand online came to fruition in real life. Donald Glover is among the first celebrities created by the internet.

In the modern era, fans use social media to generate massive waves of public opinion that influence entertainment decision-making like never before. What started with the American Idol call-in voting system could become a way for entertainment companies to generate buzz for upcoming projects.

Imagine in 2020, when the eighth Transformers is in the works, and Michael Bay decides to allow the fans to choose which babe they want to see running away from explosions in slow motion. The next Batman movie could be preceded by actors campaigning online for the lead role, with homemade sample clips of them as the Caped Crusader to persuade public opinion.

Obviously this idea won’t work for every decision, but this style of casting might open the studio up to actors they would not have previously considered, could generate publicity buzz for their project, and would remove the possibility of an unpopular casting decision.

For decades the entertainment industry has struggled to decipher the desires of the people, now all they have to do is listen to the internet.

With #Donald4Spiderman complete, let’s see who else gets casted because the internet

 

 

 

Nicki Minaj’s Triumphant Flaunting of Her Ridiculous Ass

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Yesterday, Nicki Minaj dropped the scintillating music video for “Anaconda.”

Minaj borrows heavily from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s worshipful “Baby Got Back,” centering the song around the “My anaconda don’t want none, If you ain’t got buns hun,” bar, borrowing the opening dialogue between the valley girls ogling an ample butt, and sampling the thick girl code of arms, “Little in the middle, But she got much back”.

In comparison to her other single “Pills and Potions,” this latest effort seems lazy. The Mix-a-Lot sample is over used, the production is disjointed, and Minaj’s finish to the track is just her rambling about her “big fat ass.” At over four and a half minutes long, it’s a bit of a mess.

But what this song lacks in listenability, it more than makes up for in pure, raw, uncut, sex appeal. If Minaj had been alive during Ancient Greece, her ass would have started the Trojan War. The video is puberty-inducingly sexy. It will be the subject of study at many 6th grade boy sleepovers.

Perhaps the spot for “Anaconda” in music lore is alongside music video songs like “These Boots are Made for Walkin” and “Call on Me” for which sound is unnecessary to fully enjoy the video.

Although “Anaconda” won’t match “Fancy’s” success simply because Azalea’s smash hit is quantitatively and qualitatively better, the “Anaconda” music video outdoes anything by Azalea, or any other female artist for that matter, in the sex department by a mile. Nicki has raised the bar of leaving nothing to the imagination. Minaj may no longer be sole standard bearer for female Hip-Hop artists, but there certainly is no one better at dropping jaws.

This music video is the equivalent of the Kendrick Lamar’s vicious “Control” verse. Nicki’s ode to her ass is a taunt to her competitors. With this video, she has declared herself the Queen of Donk. All previous models of curviness are obsolete. She has achieved the maximum gluteus maximus.

In Sir Mix-A-Lot’s own words “To the beanpole dames in the magazine, you ain’t it Ms. Thing.” If the skinny magazine model era was not already over, Nicki officially killed it. What started with Kim Kardashian has been completed with this music video. Our sexual tastes have changed. The era of the Big Booty is in full swing and Minaj has declared herself bandleader of this twerking parade.

This choice by Minaj is, as Pepper Brooks would say, “a bold strategy.” Minaj is now 31. Regardless of her current mind-bending sex appeal, Father Time will eventually turn Minaj from Aphrodite into a mortal female. If Minaj wants her career to extend into her forties, she will have to shy away from out-assing her competitors and focus more on out-spitting them.

But, Minaj can pull this off. She didn’t become the alpha female of the rap game just by having an outlandishly large behind. One merely needs to look to her dual personality verse on Kanye West’s “Monster,” where she makes Jay-Z’s feature look like something mumbled at a private school open mic. Her experience and talent will carry her long after her booty-shaking prime.

Just like Yeezus was the last barbaric yawp from a man ending his sexual escapades and settling down with a family, “Anaconda” is the triumphant flaunting of Nicki’s legendary curves at the peak of her sexual prowess before she begins her inevitable physical decline.

There have been challengers to Minaj’s throne, but “Anaconda” has solidified her place on this generation’s sex icon Mount Rushmore.

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Brings Us Closer to the Truth

In response to the Mike Brown killing, many on social media have taken to wondering, “what image would the news media choose to announce my death at the hands of a police officer?” under the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

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For Brown, two photos have been used, one of him glaring down into the camera in a red tank top, framed by the facade of a lower income house, and throwing up what many have construed as a gang sign. In this photo, Brown appears threatening, as though he is capable of the dubious police report that stated he pushed a police officer back into his car and tried to take his gun, even though Brown was found shot dead 35 feet away from the police cruiser.

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In another photo, Brown looks like a common teenager at an arcade, his eyes gentle and soft, with children playing in the background. This photo paints a different story, where it seems more likely the police overstepped their bounds, and shot an innocent teenager.

Combined with the strangling of Eric Garner for selling unlicensed cigarettes, the unjust killing of Trayvon Martin, and countless other cases where law enforcement have overstepped their bounds, outrage has been building. Part of the outrage is focused on the media’s portrayal of the attacks, which have tended to be unsympathetic to black victims.

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Questionable media coverage is nothing new. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, white people “found” food, whereas black people “looted” food. In the case of Katrina, a harsh lens towards black residents, who comprised the majority of the survivors who had to endure the living conditions of the Superdome, could lessen the perceived inhumanity of the government’s sluggish relief response.

The case is the same with these recent police killings. If the victims are portrayed as dangerous thugs, the American public are more likely to see the brutality of the police force as the actions of a noble defender of freedom protecting “decent” citizens from deranged criminals. If the story is bent in this fashion, we will not question the killings as they match the status quo established by hours of nightly crime reports about “unidentified” black men, and the one-sided drama of “Cops.”

Some Twitter pseudo-racists have taken to blasting the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown movement by shaming those participating. One said, “Take down your club pics, delete your weed smoking albums. Get up, do something, be productive, so if you get gunned down, you know you will go out with class and dignity.”

Even though the potentially incriminating pictures are always juxtaposed with a graduation, family or service photo, these critics seem to forget that everybody has a two-sided personality. We have the public persona that graduates, holds down jobs, and helps out in the community, and we have the private persona where we take part in less savory activities.

Just because Trayvon Martin smoked weed, does not mean he wasn’t a fine student, a beloved son, and an admired friend.

Just because Eric Garner sold untaxed cigarettes, does not mean that he wasn’t a loving father to his six children.

Just because Mike Brown may have been a suspect in a robbery, does not lessen the fact that he graduated from high school in a troubled area, and was on his way to technical school.

The sticky truth of these killings is that the victims are neither sinless martyrs, nor violent criminals, they’re normal people with faults and virtues just like the rest of us. But, regardless of their minor transgressions, none of these victims deserved to die.

In light of the recent police attacks, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown is a necessary movement to empathize with the attacks. You could have seen Trayvon buying Skittles just before he was shot. You could have seen Eric Garner playing in the park with his kids the day before he was strangled. You could have passed Mike Brown walking with his buddy on the street. These people were normal. Something like this could happen to anyone.

There is only one camera capable of telling the story of a police killing: one attached to the lapel of an officer. We have the technology to end the mystery surrounding these cases. If a police officer acts unjustly, this should be caught on camera, and the officer punished for his actions.

Noble police officers should welcome this advancement as it will cut down on complaints of misconduct when they have done nothing wrong. It’s the power-crazed and prejudiced who should be worried.

With cameras on every officer, we will no longer have to debate social media photos to determine the character of a victim.

We’ll have the truth on tape.

A Farewell to Lamar

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.