Welcome to the third installment of Light Years Behind, a (hopefully) weekly look into the National Basketball Association.
Editor’s Note: if you come here expecting the in-depth analysis offered elsewhere at the Bowdoin Globalist, then PROCEED NO FURTHER. What follows is an exercise in whimsical nonsense.
Mo Williams Transactions: An Oral History
After opting into the last year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, shooting guard Mo Williams elected to have knee surgery and retired from the NBA. But Mo’s story didn’t end there—no, siree. His contract bounced around the league over the next few weeks in some absurd salary cap shenanigans. Few really know what happened. We at LYB are proud to finally bring you, the reader, a behind-the-scenes look at Mo’s journey, as told by many of its key players.
September 26, 2016: Announced Retirement
Mo Williams: I’m getting too old for this— Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers Owner): Wait, then why did you opt in to the final year of your contract? The luxury tax ain’t cheap, you know! Alright, you just lost ring privileges. David Griffin (Cavaliers General Manager): And I cast thee out to another team, where ye were not signed / Hence from Cleveland, thou art banishéd!
January 7, 2017: Traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Atlanta Hawks for Kyle Korver and first-round pick
Gilbert: It was the right move for us, with J.R. Smith out for 3 months. Getting out of Mo’s contract was fortuitous as well. I’m glad we could get it done. Griffin: Oh cap-hit, oh cap-hit / Our fearful bill has been reduced. Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers Head Coach): In today’s NBA, we need players who can play. We need guys who give 110 percent. We need players with a nose for the basketball. We need high basketball IQ. We need shot-makers. We need players with class. We need winners. It’s a make-or-miss league. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations): Definitely a good trade. Getting back a first for an expiring contract? That— Wes Wilcox (Hawks GM): —was a real slam dunk! [breaks into hysterical laughter] Budenholzer: Shut up. Kevin Love (Cavaliers Power Forward): [Holding back tears] Sure, he hadn’t played a minute for us [sniffle], but we were the best piece of matching salary a trade could hope to have. Lebron James (Cavaliers Small Forward): We needed a goddamn playmaker. Williams: [On Caribbean beach] Huh?
January 18, 2017: Traded by the Atlanta Hawks to the Denver Nuggets for Cenk Akyol and $2.2M trade exception
Budenholzer: The move was purely for basketball reasons. The salary flexibility was too good to pass up. Wilcox: [Stifling laughter] Cenk mate. Budenholzer: I hate you. Mike Malone (Nuggets Head Coach): Mo, maybe he has a place with this organization. Retired or not, he’s a vet and he could teach the rooks a thing or two. Mainly, we just wanted to get to the salary floor, though. Darrell Arthur (Nuggets Power Forward): He’s a straight shooter. He tells it like it is, even if it isn’t.
January 18, 2017: Waived by the Denver Nuggets.
Tim Connelly (Nuggets GM): We were trying to hit the salary floor. The move saved us a couple million bucks. Well, as long as no jerk team claims him off waivers. What organization would possibly be that tone-deaf and obtuse? Williams: [Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef] blublublub?
January 20, 2017: Claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia 76ers from the Denver Nuggets
Connelly: Oh for goodness’ sake. Wilcox: Mo money, Mo problems! Connelly: Why are you even here? Joel Embiid (76ers Center): TRUthfully, moST people in THE league don’t get it. PeRiOd. Mo Can get you buCkEtS. Score the basketball, man. Bryan Colangelo (76ers GM): [Kneeling at the feet of a hooded figure] My Lord, we claimed the Williams contract from Denver. We are two millions dollars closer to the salary floor, but only have to pay one million in actual salary. Mysterious Figure (???): Good, good. They thought they could be rid of me They thought I had fallen. NEVER!!!! SOON, ALL OF THE ASSETS WILL BE OURS! MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Colangelo: Yes, Lord Hinkie. Hinkie (Former 76ers GM): OK, for the last time, what did I say about using my name? The walls have ears, you fool! Brett Brown (76ers Head Coach): No, I wasn’t happy at all when I heard the news. Is it really too much to ask this organization to get players who actually want to play in the NBA? Williams: [In Nepalese Monastery] The leaf on the breeze is but a drop of rain in the ocean of the soul.
January 21, 2017: Waived by the Philadelphia 76ers
Nikola Jokic (Nuggets Center): Yes! With Mo gone, that’s 2.2 million back below the salary floor. That extra cash gets redistributed to the roster! I already know what I’m going to buy with my slice of the dough. Kenneth Faried (Nuggets Power Forward): Veteran’s tip: maybe wait for the check before making any impulse purchases. Jokic: [Surrounded by 10 Serenity Cat Pods] Too late. Williams: [In Parisian café] Mais c'est quoi ce bordel?
January 23, 2017: Claimed on waivers by the Denver Nuggets from the Philadelphia 76ers
Hinkie: [Pushed into deep crevasse] Noooooooooooooooo! Connelly: Philly just needs to chill out. We traded for that contract! That was just such an unnecessary move, creating inconveniences for everyone involved. Jokic: Does anyone know Skymall’s return policy? Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets Point Guard): I know that Mo is retired, and we are just claiming him again for the salary floor savings, but man, it would be nice to have a veteran guard who can play down the stretch. We definitely need to make a move. Malone: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I’ll call upstairs and put in a request. Jameer Nelson (Nuggets Point Guard): [Gulp]
January 24, 2017: Waived by the Denver Nuggets
Malone: The Sixers threatened to claim Mo again, but they backed off. Let’s just say Gallo had some connections with the Italian National Team. Danilo Gallinari (Nuggets Small Forward): We made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Williams: [Walks into sunset]
Understanding the Food Culture in the NBA
You may have heard of Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City, a highly anticipated showdown. You also might have heard of the fans calling KD a cupcake and wearing cupcake merchandise.
The question that lingers in the air after this odd encounter is, what do cupcakes and basketball have to do with each other? To answer this question, I will look at the NBA through the lens of linguistics in order to analyze frequently used terms and better understand the phenomenon of cupcakes and basketball.
The first trend I noticed was the amount of food words frequently used during games. Here are just a few of the many I came across:
To get “crossed” in basketball is to get tripped up by the opposing offensive player. Upon tracing this word further I found it to have a strong connection to the classic song “Hot Cross Buns,” which is frequently played on recorders by fifth graders in exchange for the promise that they would be able to have a hot cross bun to eat. This is similarly found in the NBA, as those players who cross another player up, or are really good at basketball, get money, which has strong purchasing power against the hot cross bun market.
Another term found with the same roots but in a different language is called a “croissant.” Only French players can “croissant” other NBA players, and the likes of Tony Parker argue that it is a far more cultural and exquisite experience than consuming a hot cross bun.
“Shake and bake” has a similar meaning to the two previously listed terms; however, it is losing popularity in its usage each season. This has been linked to the idea that players are interested in poultry terms.
When a player completes a strong season off an expiring contract, most fans will recognize that this player will be getting “bread.” This is perhaps less exciting than getting “dough,” as dough can instantly be made into whatever the player wishes, be it hot cross bun or croissants. The connection between bread and the NBA is an interesting one, but there is one prominent hypothesis being espoused by many linguists that points to the number of Auntie Anne’s and Great American Cookies in an arena as positively correlated to the bread a player will receive later on.
There are certainly many more terms that could describe actions in the NBA, but I highly encourage taking a closer look at words such as “getting cooked,” which means the losing team’s flesh is starting to get a nice sear around the edges. Another would be “whipping a pass,” which means throwing the ball in a similar form and trajectory to the way one would whisk a meringue.
Clearly, there is a food culture within basketball, but what is perhaps most exciting to us is just how dynamic that culture is. Recall how everyone was calling Kevin Durant “cupcake.” Many other players receive food name distinctions. There is “Chef Curry,” who apparently has “been cookin’ with the sauce.” Some people take on these nicknames and actually change their legal name to mirror food-related terms and properties, such as Ron Baker, Caramel Anthony, Courtney Leek, Draymond Greens, O.J. Mayo, Chandler Parsnips, and truly the list goes on and on.
This exceptional culture of food is also manifested in the identity of the players. Style of play also seems not to be secure from the food culture craze that is sweeping the NBA. When a player is “hot,” he is playing very well; he is cooking successfully. On the other hand, a player is labeled “cold” when he is performing poorly, and will generally not be cooking.
Lastly, cities seem to have made another important mark on the dynamic food culture of the NBA. Just look at New Orleans mascot which features a cake-hungry baby. Consider Cleveland with their fantastic Pfeffer Bierschinken, or Oakland’s famous curry. It is clear that when a city embraces its food scene, its NBA affiliate will as well.
This has been just a cursory glance at the exceedingly curious food culture that is baked into the NBA,a phenomena that has spread past the court to the players and ultimately the cities around them.