With 8.8 seconds left in Game 7 of the first round NBA playoff series between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets, Shaun Livingston, a likeable human with an awkward face, was attempting to inbound the ball for the Nets. This was a more precarious position than it otherwise would’ve been because (a) Livingston had already had trouble getting the ball in moments before, (b) he’d used up three of the five seconds allowed to get the ball in play, and (c) the Raptors had stitched together a run and managed to cut a big Nets lead to one point.
Livingston opted to panic-lob the ball over Terrence Ross to Paul Pierce, and he might as well have picked it up and kicked it into the parking lot. Ross, an all-world leaper, springboarded up into the atmosphere. All of time and sound stopped. The whole entire everything was fat with suspense. Ross got just enough of his fingers on the ball to disrupt its flight. He insta-hopped again, gathered the ball, then threw it off Pierce as he was falling out of bounds. The city of Toronto nearly vibrated itself right the fuck off the map from so much cheering and jumping. It was a very crucial moment in a very crucial game. And the only thing my brain could think: SHOW ME WHAT DRAKE IS DOING SHOW ME WHAT DRAKE IS DOING SHOW ME WHAT DRAKE IS DOING SHOW ME WHAT DRAKE IS DOINGSHOW ME WHAT DRAKE IS DOING.
In September of last year, Drake was named the official “Global Ambassador” of the Toronto Raptors by the Toronto Raptors. I’d not realized how important of a thing that would be in my life until the playoffs started, because basically every time somebody said the word “raptor,” there was Drake, cooing and smiling and five o’clock bearding. It was beautiful and perfect and wonderful. I am a Drake fan. I enjoy his music and his presence within that world, yes, but I maybe enjoy his existence outside of it even more. He’s like a guest star in real life, this time coalescing two of my most favorite things (rap and basketball) and making me care about things I didn’t know I could care about (like lint rolling, or Canada). It was great. And if you don’t think so then I hate you. Alas:
Toronto still wound up losing by one, and now they are out of the playoffs. Which means Drake is out of the playoffs. And more than halfway into the second round, the loss of Drake has been so deflating that several of the remaining teams have been too upset to perform properly, resulting in numerous blowouts and struggle games. So, in what will surely be a fruitless attempt to replace him, let’s give each of the surviving NBA playoff teams a figurehead rapper. Because Drake is So Far Gone and I am so far sad.
The Rapper The Spurs Get: Jay Z
The Spurs are old (the average age of their starting lineup is 62) and they have been so perfectly molded by basketball’s David Lo Pan that their seamless execution is almost a bore to watch (to non-fans anyway—I’d be perfectly happy watching Tim Duncan bank shot his way to 50 more NBA Championships). They have the highest win percentage over the past 17 years (Tim Duncan’s career) than any other professional team in any other professional sport. People are sort of tired of their consistent winning. So, I’m going to pluck Jay Z from the Nets and place him here. America is a bit bored with Jay Z as a mogul. He’s got a lot of money. He had some great albums. But his dynasty is no longer exciting enough. Who’s he really fighting anymore besides time? He’s not a cool rap dude anymore. He’s an old married guy who figured out how to win at everything. Good for him. But that makes him the Spurs.
The Rapper The Portland Trailblazers Get: Young Thug.
They’re the second most unproven team left in the playoffs (not for long, it seems) but also capable of being the most interesting (mostly because Damian Lillard is endlessly enjoyable and also because LaMarcus Aldridge’s plump nose). They have a certain amount of style, but it’s a youthful style that I recognize as cool but can’t properly synthesize or understand. Just like Young Thug.
The Rapper The Miami Heat Get: Pharrell.
The Heat are reliable and they have star power and they cannot be stopped when they decide they do not want to be stopped and it was interesting for a long time but now it’s just kind of like, “Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re great.” Man, I am so fucking sick of hearing “Happy.”
The Rapper The Los Angeles Clippers Get: Kanye.
The Clips are very good but also probably the NBA’s biggest group of pouts. They could win the championship this year. They could spend all of the Western Conference Finals brooding in the corner. Who knows? Either way, it’s going to be interesting and amazing to watch.
The Rapper The Brooklyn Nets Get: Waka Flocka Flame.
I like the Nets. I like that their two most compelling figures, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, are loud and obnoxious even though they’re so very clearly not as good as they think they are. I like that their best player, Joe Johnson, spends half of his time being excellent and the other half being atrocious. I like that their point guard is joyless. I like that they’re messy and occasionally unpredictable and their coach, in addition to looking like a bad guy from Grand Theft Auto, was teammates with them last year so it’s like the whole season has been about how you act when your parents leave you home alone with your two-years-older cousin and tell you that he’s in charge. I like all of that. It equals up to I don’t even know what. So we swap out the still water drawl of Jay Z and replace him with Waka Flocka. I need to see Waka Flocka celebrate a dagger jumper when Pierce inevitably hits one over LeBron this series. I need to see Waka Flocka experience visible heartache when the Heat shred the Nets in Game Six in Brooklyn.
The Rapper The Pacers Get: J. Cole.
Gross. Go away. The Pacers have been entirely disappointing this postseason. They spent the whole regular season promising us a massive showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Miami Heat. Instead, they struggled to get past the Hawks (who I think was here representing the YMCA) and even though they seem to be handling the Washington Wizards, it’s the Wizards who have been exciting and fun while the Pacers have been wack and lame. So, duh, the Pacers get J. Cole, who has won the “Gross. Go Away” award for the last five years; his reign in that category is history’s most unthwartable dynasty.
The Rapper The Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Lil B.
This one writes itself, but: OKC gets Lil B, the California rapper that has feuded with Durant for the last three years. If you’re unaware: Durant tweeted that he didn’t understand how Lil B was so popular. Lil B responded shortly after by saying he put a curse on Durant, that he’d never win the championship. This is a pairing of necessity. These two need to work this shit out. We just can’t live in a world where Kevin Durant, the nicest person in the league and also the guy that gave a crushingly endearing MVP acceptance speech this week, doesn’t have an NBA Championship and the evil android LeBron James has sixteen or whatever. Kevin’s already not in the Framily Plan. This is too much heartbreak for one person. #GetKDwithLilB
The Rapper The Washington Wizards Get: Kendrick Lamar.
I don’t know anything about the Wizards other than that they were hanging around in the background and it was whatever and then all of a sudden OH MY GOD THEY ARE VERY SCARY. Even down 3-2 to the fragile-seeming Pacers, I’m still super pumped about the possibility of watching them mount a comeback (and very despondent thinking about them getting freight trained by LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals). I want more, more, more of the Wizards. They look like potentially the next great team in the league. So they get Kendrick Lamar. He’s a little more established in his career than they are in theirs, but you get it. This year’s playoffs for the Wizards is basically for them what it was for Kendrick right as he was releasing Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Also: It’d just be neat to see teeny-tiny Kendrick -who’s something like a for-real 5-foot-3—hanging out with the 6-foot-11 Nenê. Imagine Nenê walks into the club or whatever and everyone’s like “Hey! It’s Nenê!” And Nenê is like “Yep.” And then everyone’s like, “I was kind of hoping Kendrick was coming too.” And then Nenê smiles and then TA-DA! Kendrick Lamar climbs out of Nenês pocket. Oh, man. That’s the most adorable thing.