USA Today

Good For Ball, Bad For Ball - NBA Finals Edition

Mychael Urban
June 06, 2017 - 4:30 pm

Few flash moments in sports rival the tip dunk in traffic for pure, all-encompassing domination.

In a burst of fury that unfolds in roughly 0.8 seconds, it’s an offensive rebound, a bucket, and typically an emasculation of the nearest “defender,” who’ll quietly be checking every one of his social media feeds upon returning to the locker room, hoping against hope that he hasn’t already been immortalized in a clever meme, gif, or another such pronunciation-oft-butchered internet pimp slap.

In other words: Tip dunks in traffic are Good For Ball.

Missed dunks? Bad For Ball, of course. Self-emasculation always is.

I’ve been playing this “game” for years, first in writing and eventually on the radio, and the premise is pretty simple: Everything in life can be labeled one of two ways: Good For Ball, or Bad For Ball. Literally everything.

To wit: Holding the door open for someone at, say, Starbucks, is polite, thoughtful and unselfish. Good For Ball. Can’t go wrong, really – even if the person for whom you’re holding open one of those comically heavy double doors doesn’t give some sort of acknowledgment; a nod, a wink, a “Thanks!” ‘Cause hey, if you’re holding the door for no other reason than to be cool, you shouldn’t really need any sort of validation from your subject.

That said (written? typed?), if said subject not only doesn’t acknowledge your random act of kindness but actually ignores it and opens/walks through the OTHER one of the double doors?  Bad For Ball. On the bright – and sure, a little bit mean—side, you’re well within your rights at that point to respond to getting stiffed by clipping your ingrate acquaintance’s Achilles Heel with the 3,000-pound door in your now white-knuckled hands. 
Everyone clear on how it works now? Sweet. Let’s have at it, then, with a little NBA Finals Edition of Good For Ball/Bad For Ball …

… Rihanna is beautiful. She’s funny. She’s smart. And unlike some of her current pop-diva counterparts – the absolute fraud that is Iggy Azalea comes immediately to mind – Rihanna is incredibly talented. “Love On The Brain,” for instance, flaunts a mastery of the kind of old-school sensibilities (and more than a little sensuality) that separate the Iggys and Adeles. 

But with apologies to Jeff Van Gundy, who turned into one of the cartoon characters whose eyes bug out and whose tongue unfolds into a drool-soaked staircase in the proximity of the pulchritudinous Rih-Rih, she’s got no business sitting courtside at Roaracle openly rooting for the enemy (and let’s face it, openly pining for LeBron).   

Are you not getting enough attention at home, Rihanna? Or at Coachella? Or from Drake, who gets further exposed as a gifted nerd who fell into “cool” by the day? Do you really have to heckle KD to feel complete? Come on, kid. You’re better than that. Bad For Ball.

… By the way, is there a more condescending phrase than, “You’re better than that”? It‘s not quite as subtle as “Bless his/her heart,” which basically gives whoever drops it license to mother-F the snot out of its target, but it serves the same purpose. Which is to say, “I’M better than YOU.” Bad For Ball.

… Every few days during the NBA playoffs – which opened in, what, early February? – I make sure my luxurious and reliable Equinox from FH Dailey Chevy in San Leandro makes its way to a tiny gas station just off 580 in Oakland, where a temporary tent stands sentry, offering all kinds of Dubs gear you’ll never find in a licensed outlet. 

Klay, Steph and Day Day transformed into RUN-DMC – Kangols, phat ropes, Adidas track suits, et al – and re-christened “RUN- TCG” (for Thompson-Curry-Green)? Good For Ball. And for $5? PHENOMENAL For Ball.

… “We just need to stay the course. … We just need to stick to the game plan. … We don’t need to change a thing.” These are all words that have come out of the mouths of LeBron, Kyrie and T-Lue over the past 48 hours. 

I’m willing to give Irving and James a pass here, because the modern athlete is practically encouraged to mindlessly spout nonsense in the face of adversity, but “coach” Lue – stop snickering, LeBron, it’s on his business card! – long ago reached his postseason quota for asinine quotes. This is the same cat who said the Celtics are a tougher guard than the Dubs, and, after Game 1,“Take away those easy baskets and … them having 20 more shots than we did, it’s a different game.”

And if I had more game in high school, I wouldn’t have lost my virginity in the freshman dorm at USF. Thanks for coming, Captain Obvious. You’re better than that! Bad For Ball.

… Steve Kerr is back on the bench, demanding joy. Imagine that: Your boss walks into your office and rides you for not having enough fun, for not smiling more, for not appreciating what you have as opposed to lamenting what you don’t. There is exactly nothing about Steve Kerr that isn’t Good For Ball.

… LeBron, explaining without explaining why he opted not to take the traditional podium after Game 2, said he wasn’t mad. “No, I’m good. I just need some food and some wine and I’ll be fine.” Ever seen LeBron after a call goes against him? 

Granted, it only happens every month or so, but still, he acts as though a great injustice has been done. He pisses. He moans. He grimaces. He rolls his eyes. He indignantly shrugs his shoulders. And this man needs MORE wine? He’s a First Team All-World Whiner as it is. Bad For Ball. 

... If you save one clip from this year’s Finals, make it Klay’s absolute mugging of Kevin Love to start Game 1. Thompson could miss every shot he takes for the rest of the series (it’s only two more games, people) and still go down as a key figure in Golden State glory. Enough with the hand-wringing over his buckets. Stopping buckets is every bit as big. Klay’s D is as Good For Ball as the KD/LeBron rap is Bad. 

"That's all for now, gang. If you'll excuse me, I've gotta call Drake back. Apparently he's mad at me. Something about the way I've been treating his precious Rih-Rih. And that damn Iggy is on line two!"

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