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Analyzing the Superhero Fantasies of NBA Rookies

Also: the meanings behind KD’s dis of Under Armour, D-Rose’s latest proclamation, and D-Wade’s TMZ tease as we read between the lines of the latest news from the NBA offseason

Getty Images/Marvel Comics/DC Comics/Ringer illustration

During a recent trip to Target—this was three, maybe four weeks ago—I was whipping through the parking lot in my car thinking about things (possibly it was something serious and complex like global warming or maybe even the wage gap, but more likely was something stupid and simple like whether or not you could knock a lion out if you punched it in the head hard enough during an attack). Normally, weekday mornings at Target are slow (which is why I go then), but it was unreasonably busy that day, so I was having a hard time finding a parking spot. When I finally found one, I zipped down the lane toward it at a speed you could accurately describe as “somewhat unreasonable, though not recklessly so.” As I neared the spot, so, too, did another car coming from the other way.

I swung my car in there just as the other car was setting up to pull in, which of course made the driver furious. He honked his horn and honked his horn and honked his horn, and I didn’t do much of anything beyond sit there and start gathering my phone and wallet, assuming he’d just drive off. Except here’s the thing: He didn’t drive off. He just stopped honking. I stepped out of the car and as soon as I did he began shouting some not nice things at me. I was surprised at first, and then after that I became instantly furious. I said some not nice things back to him, then he went again, then I went again, then he went again, and finally I shouted, “Get out of the car! Get out of the car! I’m begging you to get out of the car because if you do I’m gonna put you in the fucking dirt!”

Now, to be sure, I definitely didn’t really want him to get out of his car. I was saying, “Get out of the car!” but what I really meant was, “Don’t get out of the car! Let’s just yell at each other for a second so neither one of us loses face!” Best I could tell, he was bigger than me. If he’d have called my bluff I’d have either (a) had to retreat into Target on some, “I don’t have time for this”–type shit, or (b) gotten beaten up in a parking lot, which was not a thing I was interested in. After a moment of posturing, he drove off, and that was that. I went into the Target and wandered around for a bit and then left. (I hadn’t even gone there to buy anything. I just like the ambience, so sometimes I go there for that.)

Anyway, I tell you all that because it is, in a sense, what this column is. We’re going to grab a few newsy story lines from the NBA, say what they are and what was said, and then figure out what they really mean, like when the Grizzlies said they expected Chandler Parsons to be ready for training camp but what they meant was, “Perhaps signing a guy who’d just come off knee surgery to a four-year, $95 million deal was not that great of an idea.” Or like when Knicks president Steve Mills wrote a letter about the future of the franchise and said that “dogged defense” and “unselfish ball movement” would be their new cornerstones, but what he meant was, “Carmelo is as good as gone.”

The Thing: Kevin Durant firing a missile at Under Armour, saying “nobody wants to play in Under Armours” when asked why the University of Maryland couldn’t sign top local prospects.

What’s It Mean? It means two things. First, it means that Kevin Durant has eyeballs, because he’s right: Under Armour shoes are not that great to look at it. The best thing anyone has been able to say about a new Under Armour shoe was back when the Steph Curry 3s were released and people were like, “Well, I guess those ones aren’t all the way terrible.” Under Armour shoes just don’t look cool. (A large part of it has to do with the company's insistence on using that odd U-A combo logo.)

And beyond them just not looking cool, they also don’t even sound cool, which is a strange thing to consider at first until you try to picture a person looking around the house asking someone else, “Hey, do you know where my Under Armours are?” It sounds ridiculous. It sounds like it’s the beginning of a joke, almost. It sounds like a billion different objects, none of which happen to be “cool shoes,” like the way “Nikes” or “Adidas” sounds. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that it means that Kevin Durant has, either in public or in private, made fun of Steph Curry shoes, which is just delightful to imagine. (It might also mean that Steph Curry is a genius, given that he’s getting paid tens of millions of dollars to wear funny shoes, and that’s to say nothing of the piece of UA equity he has baked into his contract.)

The Thing: Derrick Rose telling the Associated Press, “I can still play.”

What’s It Mean? Derrick Rose can’t play.

2017 NBA Finals - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Thing: The Cavs canceling plans for a $140 million renovation to Quicken Loans arena.

What’s It Mean? This one goes several levels deep. It could mean that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is planning to sell the team. (Gilbert and the Cavs were going to cover half of the $140 million.) And that could mean that he’s expecting LeBron to leave for L.A. after this season (as lots of people are). And that could mean that the Cavaliers are going to be a sinkhole again and the Lakers are going to be good again. And that could mean that Kobe, likely flustered by watching people gush over LeBron as a Laker, is inspired to just make Musecage video after Musecage video after Musecage video, which would be terrible for everyone.

(I honestly have no idea what’s going on in those Musecage videos. Here’s a screenshot from one:


That’s one of the 12 best basketball players in the history of the planet talking to a purple snake named after the nickname Kobe gave himself. That thing in between them is “The Crystal Ball of Kansas City,” which Kobe materialized from the air by snapping his fingers. If you say a spell, it activates basketball highlights that live inside it. The snake knows the spell because he learned it in a class called Museology.)

Head coach Isiah Thomas of the Indiana Pacers reacts to the NBA game Getty Images

The Thing: Isiah Thomas saying he thinks Las Vegas is ready for the NBA.

What’s It Mean? That Las Vegas is not ready for the NBA. (I might be wrong. In fact, it’s likely that I am. Las Vegas seems like it could definitely handle an NBA team. It already has an NHL team and is soon to have an NFL team. It’s just that I’ve watched enough things Isiah Thomas has said turn to ash in the past decade that I’m leery. My car could burst into flames and he could be like, “I think you should pull over and get this fire put out,” and I’d be like, “I don’t know, man. I think I wanna see how it plays out.”)

(There’s at least a small chance that Isiah tries to sign the fire to a five-year max deal in this scenario.)

The Thing: Dwyane Wade having dinner with LeBron.

What’s It Mean? Likely nothing. Or maybe everything. Dwyane told the paparazzi who were bothering him while he was getting into a car at an airport that he was meeting LeBron, so there’s a good chance that he was just saying it as a quip. But also the airport was LAX and so maybe LeBron, who has a house in L.A., is already scouting things for when he (potentially) leaves Cleveland next season, and maybe that’s where the two are going to join up again? (Paolo Uggetti wrote two weeks ago about what a Bulls buyout for Wade might look like.) Or maybe they’re plotting on teaming up in Cleveland, which would mean the Cavs could have a starting five sometime next season of LeBron, Kevin Love, (Kind of Old But Still Playoff Dangerous) Dwyane Wade, (Possibly Still Injured) Isaiah Thomas/(Angry The Trade Fell Through) Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson. I don’t know if that’s a powerful enough lineup to beat the Warriors in the Finals (it’s not), but I do know that it would instantly become the most interesting starting five in the NBA.

2017 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Thing: Sports Illustrated asking several rookies what superpower they’d choose.

What’s It Mean? Let’s go player by player.

Jayson Tatum said that if all the superpowers were available for choosing, he’d either go with Reed Richards’s stretch power in Fantastic Four or Superman’s ability to fly, which sounds a lot like if someone asked you what car you would pick if you could choose from all the cars on the planet and you said, “I would either want a skateboard or a Bentley.” Being able to fly is legit a godlike power. It’s far, far, far better than just being like, “Oh, my arms are super stretchy.” That means I’m not so sure I trust Jayson Tatum’s ability to weigh the outcome of a situation.

Bam Adebayo said he wanted super speed. That means he’s a very pragmatic, forward-thinking person, what with super speed being among the most imperceptible of superpowers for a professional basketball player to have. It’s one of the few you’d be able to utilize without having to expose yourself as a mutant, which would put you at a remarkable advantage, because, for as progressive as the NBA is, I assume Adam Silver would have to draw the line at allowing mutants to participate in the NBA in a player capacity. (A sidebar: I would like it stated for the record that I am pro-mutants.) (Another sidebar: The Mutant NBA sounds like it would for real be incredible. I am absolutely ordering that League Pass option when mutants finally start to happen in 20 or 30 years.)

Malik Monk said he wanted to fly, and that’s great, but he also said he’d use it to do evil things part of the time, which is less great, but his name sounds the most like a villain of all the other rookies in the 2017 class so I guess he’s at least staying on brand.

And Markelle Fultz, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. all said they’d choose teleportation as their superpower. When asked where they’d teleport to right that instant if they had the ability, Fultz said he’d go to either Benihana (this is a bad sign for Sixers fans) or Chick-fil-A, and Smith said he’d go to Waffle House (this is an excellent sign for Mavericks fans). Fox wasn’t asked where he’d teleport to, only to explain why he chose that power above all the rest. He explained that it was better than flying (and better than anything else, really) because it gives you the ability to be anywhere instantly, and before that exact moment I’d never even considered teleporting an elite superpower. I don’t know what any of that means. Maybe that De’Aaron is a genius. Or I am not.