Putting NBA Superstars Through “The Yeezus Test”

This is part one of a two part series.

In June of 2013, Kanye West released his sixth studio album, titled “Yeezus.” This album was a lot of different parts put together in maybe the weirdest way possible. Kanye West, known for his magnificent, cutting-edge production, put out what can only be described as a clunker. The production was simplistic and lyrics eerie. It seemed that what Kanye put out was exactly opposite of the Kanye West we were introduced to, that is, lyrical, intricate, and important. But here’s the thing. Yeezus is also, in a way, something special. It is Kanye West deconstructed down to his roots. It’s dark, it’s incredibly self-absorbed, it’s even a bit evil. Make no mistake, Yeezus was bad, but it was also good because we saw that Kanye was kind of bad, but in a kind of a good way. Because what emerged from this simplistic, smart, and narcissistic ten track album was Kanye unfiltered. When everything was broken down, we were introduced “Villain Kanye.”

The point I’m trying to make here is that the “Yeezus Theory” is incredibly and absolutely adaptable to NBA superstars. If you examine those at the top of any profession, you will find a group of individuals with a certain edge, a certain spectacle of their mentality that, if you don’t look close enough, will fly under the radar. This concept is true without fail.

There was that time Buzz Aldrin punched a guy in the face who claimed the moon landing was fake (which proved Buzz was a stone-cold killer). There was that time Teddy Roosevelt got shot during his speech, but insisted that he finish the rest of his 90 minute speech (which proved that he was absolutely unfaze-able). There are even smaller, better moments, like when Dustin Henderson, also known as the best character in Stranger Things, said to Eleven “We never would’ve upset you if we knew you had superpowers.” (but really meant “I am not someone who let things slide, but I’m also not stupid, because there is zero chance I am trying to make someone who could kill me mad.”) In these little moments, these simple dialogues, is where the light can shine brightest on a seemingly “larger-than-life” personality.

So now it’s time for us to apply the concept to NBA superstars. That way, we can finally get a good an nuanced and correct look at these guys. We’ll choose, say, the 8 best players in the NBA (there are only 8 true superstars in the NBA). We’ll start with the first four right now and do the next four later, because that seems like the correct amount to do at a time. For each, we’ll include a line from Yeezus, because that also seems like the right thing to do.


LeBron James

This is kind of hard because there’s nothing about LeBron that hasn’t already been dissected. But yet, there is an absolutely completely undervalued and underappreciated part of LeBron’s game, and that’s his “f***-you” dunks, and in particular, his “f***-you” dunk on Jason Terry.

There were plenty of moments to chose from. There was that time LeBron dunked on journeyman guard Damon Jones so hard that Jones literally decided that it was better to join LeBron next season than risk getting dunked on again. (Side note: LeBron had to wear a mask at the time, one that he was supposed to keep on during the entirety of the game. Once he was done crushing poor Damon’s soul, however, he took off his mask so that he could get a better view of his Damon. And then he smugged. LeBron was 20 at the time.)

There was that time LeBron almost dunked on Draymond Green in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, after Green had punched LeBron where he absolutely should not have punched him. That was the saddest I have been about a missed dunk.

But if we truly want to get at Bron’s ethos, we have to take a step back in time, back to March 18, 2013.

WHAT.

I MEAN.

HOW.

DID.

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FIVE POUND.

JASON.

EUGENE. (lol)

TERRY.

THINK.

HE WAS GOING TO BLOCK THIS?

Here’s what he had to say about the event:

“I’ve had a chance to [review] it, and it was one of my better ones,” James said. “The fact that it happened to J.T. made it that much sweeter. Because we all know J.T. and he talks too much sometimes. And I’m glad it happened to him.”

That’s LeBron, not subtle, just powerful direct, and, (like his dunk), painful inside and out. Like imagine talking some trash to LeBron. And then, you have to play against him. And he’s charging towards you. And you’re frozen. That’s on some sunken place vibes. Can you imagine being in a more intimidating scenario? No, because there is not a more intimidating scenario. Case closed.

Also, Jason Terry’s middle name is Eugene. lol.

“I’m aware I’m a king” — Kanye West on “Black Skinhead”

Kevin Durant

If you don’t know by now, Kevin Durant has a long and storied history with Twitter. More recently, he’s been called out for having a “burner” account. After seemingly forgetting to switch to his alternative, secret account, he tweeted this:

In the past, Durant had a very different relationship with Twitter. Fans and foes have gone on to find some absolute gems from KDs earlier years, like this, this, this, and this. But rather than go into each of KD’s old tweets, I think we should look at one in particular.

This Kevin Durant status from 2010 actually reveals a lot about who Durant is, and what he was always going to be. It reveals that

  1. If he’s talking purely skill-wise, we can learn a lot about KD’s influences. For the crown of “meanest bald head ever” he puts Jordan first (fair) but then he name drops Chuck ahead the likes of Shaq, older Kobe and older Kareem, which shows both his value as a teammate (Shaq and Kobe both were both objectively stronger focal points of their offenses), and as a ringchaser (Sorry Charles).
  2. If he’s talking purely bald-headedness wise, then he is actually correct in that Jordan made being bald cool (one of his most important accomplishments) and that Charles Barkley made being bald mean. Chuck would look about 80% less menacing with hair.

3. KD is using Twitter like he doesn’t know he’s famous, which is actually a very correct and introspective look into who Kevin Durant is.

4. And finally, some puzzle pieces to put together here: it’s clear he wants to be on the West Coast (LA), have a teammate with a bald head (at the time, Mo Speights), and refused to mention famous bald-heads Shaq and Kobe. That left open two teams: the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were never getting KD because they are, of course, the Clippers. The rest is history.

“Soon as they like you make ’em unlike you .”— Kanye West, “I Am A God”

Kawhi Leonard

The clip I’m about to show you isn’t even really a clip of Kawhi Leonard, but a clip of LeBron James. I think it makes more sense to show you this clip than any highlight that actually features Kawhi. While it is not explicitly a Kawhi highlight, it does a fantastic job showing who Kawhi Leonard is, and showing you Kawhi while also not putting Kawhi in the spotlight is in-and-of-itself a very Kawhi-esque thing to do

Here we see the greatest player in the world, LeBron James, absolutely shook when Kawhi Leonard re-enters the game. Let’s break this down:

Kawhi is going in for Danny Green, who is by no means a defensive scrub (2016–2017 All-Defensive Second Team). LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career, having received 120 of the possible 121 first place MVP votes (Melo got one vote). Kawhi is in just his second (second!) NBA season, a time before he was widely regarded as the best defender in the NBA.

And yet, when LeBron sees Leonard, he loses it.

The reason this clip means so much to me, and why it should mean so much to you, is because it was one of the first times we saw the amount of respect that Kawhi Leonard demanded on a basketball court. LeBron shot 8/22 that game, finished with a +/- of -9 with Kawhi being his primary defender, and the Spurs won the game by 10 (but would go on to lose the series).

Kawhi is the kind of player who generates headlines like this:

And generates reactions like this:

And I love him for it.

“Hey, you remember where we first met?/Okay, I don’t remember where we first met.” — Kanye West on “Bound 2”

Stephen Curry

Steph Curry’s existence is a dichotomy. He’s one of the best players on the planet. He’s also not the best player on his own team. He is, at his best, the most lethal and terrifying offensive threat in the league. He also looks like he weighs 150 pounds. He’s been called celebrated and criticized throughout his career, with some, (Charles Barkley), opting to do both.

Stephen Curry is important because he creates a dialogue on basketball. He divides those of us in the basketball community who disagree on how the game should be played, but he also brings us together to have these necessary discussions.

If you are new to basketball, and you’ve stumbled across this article, you may not know exactly what to think about Curry. To those of you in this group, I present you with Davidson Basketball’s “I Love Commons”, a parody of Asher Roth’s 2009 hit(?), “I Love College.”

There are three camps you can fall into. The first camp you could fall into is the one is that you believe this video is so bad, that it’s actually good (which is what some people (incorrectly) claim Yeezus was). The second camp you could fall into is the one where you believe this video is so bad, that it is still really bad. The third and final camp you fall into is the one where you un-apologetically believe this video is actually, truly, a work of art. Here’s a quiz to help you find out exactly what camp you fall in to.

  1. When you see the following images, what is your reaction?

A) Wow, what a gifted and talented rapper he looks like. I love the various spectacle choices.
B) This is goofy, and I don’t really hate it, although I’m not entirely sure what that 15 year old is doing with all those college students.
C) Why is this child on my screen and how do I make him go away?

2. What do you think of the following verse: “Allison cannot flavor your taters/Chester’s Dijon is all I’m here for/skipped class today/and all I can say is, um”?

A) Wow, those are some great lyrics.
B) I’ve heard worse.
C) Yikes.

3. What about “There’s Sunday Brunch’s Golden Rule/last night’s girl thinks you’re a tool/awkward eye contact just isn’t cool/and your boy’s callouts are way too crude”?

A — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — B — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — C

4) Is Asher Roth’s “I Love College” a good song?

A) Yes.
B) I’m not sure.
C) No.

Something we can all now agree on is that Steph Curry is a goofy human being. That much was undeniable before and after you watched this video? But should you root for Curry?

Here’s how it goes. If you answered “A” the most, then yes, you should support Stephen Curry. If you answered “B” the most, then you have some more research to do. You should also check out Yeezus, I think you’ll like it. And if you answered “C” the most, then you should not support Stephen Curry. It’s as simple as that.

“That’s all dem can do (Say wah, say wah, Say wah, Say wah)/That’s all dem can do/We deal with action ting/Just a badman ting, a’ dat man do/Action thing yo a badman thing” — Assassin on “I’m In It”

Check back in soon for part two of The Yeezus Test.