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The NBA Meme Bracket, Day 2: Recency Bias, Anti-Lakers Sentiment, and Nobody Likes Carmelo Anthony

Kids today! Day 1 of the NBA Meme Bracket saw some big upsets, close votes, and genuine disrespect of some of the great purple-and-gold-themed memes of the last few years. Meanwhile, Day 2 finds some compelling matchups between ex-Thunder teammates

Arturo Torres

Voting for days 2, 3, and 4 is now closed. Vote for your favorite memes in the Final Four matchups here:


Day 1 is in the books. We had more than 1 million total votes and tons of controversy over seedings (the MCAA—Meme Commission Athletics Association—stands by its decisions, which are final, authoritative, and correct; direct all complaints to bofa@deez.com), but the results speak for themselves.

First, the Favorites

Our top seeds—Crying Jordan, Squinting J.R. Smith, Confused Nick Young, and Harden Side-eye—emerged unscathed, with three of the four 1-seeds garnering more than 90 percent of the votes in their respective matchups.

All of the no. 2 seeds moved on as well. However, 3-1 Lead escaped a Miami-Dade County squeaker against its cousin, Draymond-KD. This bracket was the cause of much consternation, and the Meme Commission admits that matchup was indeed cruel and furthermore purposefully so. A tournament without controversy is a boring tournament. Moreover, Draymond-KD was clearly the beneficiary of recency bias. But I digress.

The most shocking upsets involved a pair of highly touted Laker-related memes: no. 4 Lakers Sunglasses Guy and no. 7 Lakers Chain Guy. Both got absolutely smoked—the former by 13-seed Barnes-Kobe No Flinch and the latter by 10-seed Jimmy Butler Dunk Face. The MCAA is particularly shocked by the fall of Sunglasses Guy, a versatile meme that, when played in reverse, becomes a muscular edition to the “Deal With It” canon. Some, though, saw the result coming, Twitter user @j_dan_abogdo:

As for Jimmy Butler Dunk Face over Lakers Chain Guy, Christopher P. Ryan, MCAA deputy magistrate of process, said, “These millennials. They don’t respect history. For them, the world began when The Good Place debuted.”

Other Notes

Democracy dies in darkness, the kind found at the center of the black hole that is Carmelo Anthony. The people have spoken, and they have said, in stentorian tones, “GET MELO OUTTA HERE.” All three Melo-related memes fell on the opening day of competition, including the commissioner’s personal favorite, Melo Risk It All, in its matchup against T-Mac Big Suit.

The tournament’s least popular memes were no. 11 Mike Woodson Twist and no. 16 Harden Renaissance Painting.

Looking Ahead

In the East, 6-seed Durag LeBron vs. 14-seed “Im Trying Jennifer” promises to be particularly spicy.

The Central Division will have a battle of underdogs as 11-seed Raps Mascot Fall squares off against the 14-seed Windhorst Slide.

The Midwest Division’s no. 2, David Stern Choking, is up against the iconic Iverson Step Over, a matchup that sets up the man who instituted the infamous mid-aughts dress code against its target. The loser has to wear a Warren Moon Houston Oilers Mitchell & Ness throwback.

And in the West, we have an OKC reunion with Harden Side-eye vs. KD Next Chapter.

Thanks to everyone who voted. See you tomorrow.

—The Commissioner


East Division

(1) Crying Jordan vs. (9) Lance Stephenson Pop-up

1. Crying Jordan: The clear favorite. The Kentucky of this tournament. Crying Jordan is simply iconic. The universal shorthand for defeat in the social media age.

9. Lance Stephenson Pop-up: What if the Coen brothers directed an NBA meme? This is basically the basketball version of Burn After Reading. Derek Fisher is in a moment of deep contemplation (stop laughing), and then, seemingly through the magic of CGI, Lance emerges in the frame to shatter the moment of calm.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    (1) Crying Jordan
    (14399 votes)
  • 13%
    (9) Lance Stephenson Pop-up
    (2263 votes)
16662 votes total Vote Now

(5) LeBraaaaawn Jamessss vs. (13) Barnes-Kobe No Flinch

5. LeBraaaaawn Jamessss: One of the strangest and purest NBA memes. It’s just a little kid, Terrance Jackson, then 6 years old, saying “LeBron James” in a weird sing-song drawl over and over and over again. It was uploaded to Vine in 2014, and, by the time of the platform’s demise in 2017, the loop had been viewed millions of times.

13. Barnes-Kobe No Flinch: I’m not sure why Matt Barnes didn’t retire after this happened.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    (5) LeBraaaaawn Jamesss
    (7157 votes)
  • 57%
    (13) Barnes-Kobe No Flinch
    (9791 votes)
16948 votes total Vote Now

(6) Durag LeBron vs. (14) “Im Trying Jennifer”

6. Durag LeBron: When some internet shitlord Photoshopped two cigarettes into a still of LeBron wearing a durag and a bemused, world-weary look on his face, the result was brilliance. The meme became viral when Bron screenshotted a version which had the caption “Could be the spark plug. Could be the alternator. But i can prolly fix it for $200” and posted it to his Instagram. (This, by the way, is a brazen swagger jack by LeBron. He took someone else’s content, cropped their handle out, and posted it himself.)

14. “Im Trying Jennifer”: The most recent addition to the canon. Nothing better exemplifies the existential pointlessness of non-superteams in the superteam era like C.J. McCollum’s plaintive response to a Twitter critic named Jennifer.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    (6) Durag LeBron
    (9791 votes)
  • 42%
    (14) "Im Trying Jennifer"
    (7210 votes)
17001 votes total Vote Now

(10) DeAndre Stink Face vs. (2) Alonzo Mourning Acceptance

10. DeAndre Stink Face: It’s a testament to the withering communicative power of this image that it’s managed to disentangle itself from its original context as the reaction to arguably the greatest dunk of the past five years—Jordan’s soul-evaporating on-court destruction of Brandon Knight.

2. Alonzo Mourning Acceptance: Logging on to Twitter these days is like staring into a sandstorm. Bad news; horrifying news; vaguely troubling news that’s important, but that will become clear only when it’s too late to do anything about it. What to do? How, as thinking and feeling human beings, can we survive this maelstrom with our sanity and sense of self intact? One way is by accepting that there are things beyond our control. And if they negatively affect our sense of self-worth, then simply let them go. That’s what Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning is doing as he transitions from sullen, smoldering fury to head-shaking impotence and finally to acceptance.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    (10) DeAndre Stink Face
    (2410 votes)
  • 86%
    (2) Alonzo Mourning Acceptance
    (14817 votes)
17227 votes total Vote Now

Central Division

(1) Squinting J.R. Smith vs. (8) Russ “Whose Man?”

1. Squinting J.R. Smith: This meme captures the dazed essence of J.R. Smith. Over the course of his 14-year (!!!!) career, which spans four teams, four Finals appearances, and one title, Smith has crafted a bacchanalian aura. The origins of his conceptual link with the cognac brand Hennessy, which he says he does not drink, are obscure but the reasons are plain. Smith is just a wild dude whose play oftentimes seemed influenced by high-level nightlife. He is a career 42 percent shooter who shot 39 percent on Sundays. Which, as I once wrote, “I’m guessing has something to do with Sunday coming after Friday and Saturday and those games taking place relatively early in the day.” In 2013, when J.R. was a member of the New York Knicks, Rihanna blew him up on Instagram, claiming the guard’s poor postseason play was because “his ass be hungover from clubbing every night during playoffs!!” Two games later, Smith shot 27 percent, and the Knicks fell to the Indiana Pacers in six games. The next season, he was fined $50,000 for untying players’ shoelaces. He untied Shawn Marion’s shoe, was warned by the NBA not to do that, then turned around and untied Greg Monroe’s shoe a few days later. Following the Cavaliers’ 2016 Finals win against the Warriors, Smith went several days without wearing a shirt. In the closing moments of regulation of Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, again versus the Warriors, he famously tried to dribble out the clock thinking the Cavs were up. The game was tied. J.R. Smith did not know the score of the NBA Finals game that he was playing in. Simply remarkable stuff.

8. Russ “Whose Man?”: The league’s most divisive figure is at his fearsome best when he’s dismissive. Dismissive of criticism, common sense, opposing players, sound coaching, shot selection, and tasks that seem impossible. This GIF is of Russ dismissing a Sixers fan who heckled him with two middle fingers.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    (1) Squinting J.R. Smith
    (11690 votes)
  • 30%
    (8) Russ "Whose Man?"
    (5050 votes)
16740 votes total Vote Now

(12) Kobe Five Rings vs. (13) T-Mac Big Suit

12. Kobe Five Rings: Count ’em!

13. T-Mac Big Suit: Legitimately in the running for the worst fit in the history of textiles. There were Neanderthals spearing mammoths in Eurasia 50,000 years ago whose rough-hewn bearskin capes complemented their bodies better than this monstrosity of menswear. McGrady’s explanation for the vastness of the trousers was that Shaq’s tailor sent him the wrong pants. McGrady should not rest until he has fought that person to the death.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    (12) Kobe Five Rings
    (8133 votes)
  • 51%
    (13) T-Mac Big Suit
    (8663 votes)
16796 votes total Vote Now

(11) Raps Mascot Fall vs. (14) Windhorst Slide

11. Raps Mascot Fall: Everything about this is wonderful. But it’s really the slowly deflating tail sinking into a defeated curl right at the end that takes this to the next level.

14. Windhorst Slide: This looks like when you almost hit a jackpot on a slot machine, only the cherries are Brian Windhorst infinitely exiting the screen like he’s trapped in an Atari 2600 game.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (11) Raps Mascot Fall
    (9649 votes)
  • 43%
    (14) Windhorst Slide
    (7298 votes)
16947 votes total Vote Now

(7) Doc Rivers Disbelief vs. (2) Nick Young Missed 3

7. Doc Rivers Disbelief: I will miss Doc Rivers in his general manager–head coach incarnation. What a moment in time that was. Doc left Boston as a rare commodity; he was a coach with a ring. With that leverage, Doc became one of the most powerful figures in the NBA. And what we will remember most, besides the playoff disappointments, is how Doc seemed to acquire only players who played for him in Boston or who played well against his Celtics teams or were literally his son. It turns out those jobs—GM and coach—are really hard to do. The idea that one person could do both of them at the same time is, as we speak, being proved false. The Clips, after years of dead-end drafts and lateral deals resulting in flawed, rickety rotations and numerous brutal postseason defeats, stripped Doc of his front-office responsibilities. Last season, the Pistons told Stan Van Gundy to hit the bricks, and Atlanta parted ways with Mike Budenholzer. That leaves Tom Thibodeau as the league’s last coach-president. Thibs, like Rivers, seems comically unable to imagine a roster made up of anyone outside of those who played for him previously. When he is eventually let go, and it could happen at any time, this wholly entertaining method of fucking up teams will probably go extinct.

2. Nick Young Missed 3: It ain’t over till it’s over; don’t count your chickens before they hatch, and definitely don’t turn around and raise your arms to celebrate a 3-pointer before confirming that the ball did indeed go in the basket.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    (7) Doc Rivers Disbelief
    (3560 votes)
  • 79%
    (2) Nick Young Missed 3
    (13463 votes)
17023 votes total Vote Now

Midwest Division

(1) Confused Nick Young vs. (8) LeBron James–J.R. Smith WYD?

1. Confused Nick Young: Nick Young has been called a clown by many people. Perhaps thousands of people. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. Among them: his mother. In the fourth episode of Cassy Athena’s web series Thru the Lens, which focused on a day in the life of Nick Young, his mom, Mae, recounted how, as a youngster, her son used to ball with older players including a former member of the Lakers. These more experienced players, she said, would tell her that if Nick ever got serious, he could “be great.” “But,” she continues, “he was a clown then.” Cue Confused Nick Young face.

8. LeBron James–J.R. Smith WYD?: This meme is better than last year’s Finals.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    (1) Confused Nick Young
    (8594 votes)
  • 49%
    8) LeBron James–J.R. Smith WYD?
    (8276 votes)
16870 votes total Vote Now

(5) John Wall “Bruh” vs. (13) James Harden–Wes Johnson

5. John Wall “Bruh”: I laugh every single time I see this image of Wall in street clothes (he was out with a stress fracture at the time), slouched into his seat like melted cheese, his face slack, eyes glazed over. This one has some real dark-horse potential.

13. James Harden–Wes Johnson: Arguably the greatest ankle-breaking in NBA history. Harden crossed Wes so hard that the forward’s spine dissolved.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    (5) John Wall "Bruh"
    (11070 votes)
  • 32%
    (13) James Harden–Wes Johnson
    (5315 votes)
16385 votes total Vote Now

(6) Lance Blowing in LeBron’s Ear vs. (3) J.R. Smith “The Pipe”

6. Lance Blowing in LeBron’s Ear: Lance’s most notable and relevant contribution is trying and failing to get into LeBron’s head. In this instance, by blowing air into his ear canal. I have yet to process that they are actually teammates.

3. J.R. Smith “The Pipe”: Speaks for itself.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    (6) Lance Blowing in LeBron’s Ear
    (9858 votes)
  • 41%
    (3) J.R. Smith "The Pipe"
    (6892 votes)
16750 votes total Vote Now

(10) Iverson Step Over vs. (2) David Stern Choking

10. Iverson Step Over: An image so iconic we barely talk about how the Sixers lost that series in five games.

2. David Stern Choking: The former commissioner casts a titanic shadow over the league. Stern was whip-smart and efficient and dedicated to growing the sport. But he was also dictatorial and vengeful. He once asked Jim Rome, live on air, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” after becoming annoyed at questions regarding whether the NBA draft is or has ever been rigged. Which, I get it, irritating question, but that’s still a fucking wild thing to say.

Under Stern’s stewardship, the league exploded in popularity. He also presided over four lockouts and the racially targeted dress code reforms of the mid-’00s, which stipulated that baggie pants and jerseys had to be replaced by “casual business attire.” During the destructive 2011 work stoppage that cost the players 7 percent of their share of basketball related income (BRI), Stern, at a meeting with players and their union, cryptically remarked that he knew “where the bodies are buried.” The players’ reactions, reportedly, could’ve been summed up by this GIF.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    (10) Iverson Step Over
    (10747 votes)
  • 35%
    (2) David Stern Choking
    (5847 votes)
16594 votes total Vote Now

West Division

(1) Harden Side-eye vs. (8) KD “Next Chapter”

1. Harden Side-eye: Nothing speaks to the power of NBA memes like the rise of the postgame, on-court interview. This is fluff, a literal afterthought. But in the hands of our basketball content generators, even the most benign question is coal for the furnace. Behold, the Beard, and the side-eye.

8. KD “Next Chapter”: When Julie Phayer left her position at the Golden State Warriors to join The Ringer, a great website, I very roughly pasted her head onto this meme and DM’d it to her.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    (1) Harden Side-eye
    (13804 votes)
  • 16%
    (8) KD ‘Next Chapter"
    (2757 votes)
16561 votes total Vote Now

(5) Russ “Ahhhh” vs. (4) Shaq-vs.-Cat Shimmy

5. Russ “Ahhhh”: The full quote is “Ahhh, that’s pretty interesting.” Russell had 18 points (6-for-6 from the field, 6-for-6 from the line), 11 rebounds, and 14 assists that game and had just been informed that he was the first player ever to notch a triple-double without missing a shot.

4. Shaq-vs.-Cat Shimmy: This GIF is a compound meme, combining content from a Shaquille O’Neal commercial for Gold Bond Men’s Essentials Body Powder and a GIF of unknown provenance titled “Dat Cat Butt Wiggle.” It—and Shaq’s willingness to endorse literally any product—speaks for itself. That said, Shaq—a man the size of an airport shuttle who must have, shall we say, a lot of fire down below—is the perfect pitchman for a product that cools and soothes.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    (5) Russ "Ahhhh"
    (4592 votes)
  • 72%
    (4) Shaq-vs.-Cat Shimmy
    (11852 votes)
16444 votes total Vote Now

(6) Pop Thumbs-Up vs. (3) Kevin Durant “You the Real MVP”

6. Pop Thumbs-Up: Gregg Popovich is an underrated troll. In Game 5 of the Spurs’ 2008 first-round series win against the Suns, Pop mercilessly deployed the Hack-a-Shaq on its titular target. O’Neal shot 9-for-20 from the line. Shaq decried the strategy as cowardly. A mere five seconds into the first game of the following season, Pop had ex-Sun Michael Finley wrap up O’Neal. When Shaq, muttering curses, gazed over at the Spurs bench, he saw this GIF.

3. Kevin Durant “You the Real MVP”: Durant tearfully thanking his mother, Wanda, as he accepted the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award was one of the purest moments in recent sports history. Which makes the image’s decontextualization and transformation into a vehicle for emotionally thanking someone for doing something banal all the more hilarious. In a purely postmodern sense, that is. Anyway—to the person who left detailed Amazon reviews for five different brands of in-shoe deodorant: See the above image.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (6) Pop Thumbs-Up
    (8392 votes)
  • 48%
    (3) Kevin Durant "You the Real MVP"
    (7949 votes)
16341 votes total Vote Now

(10) Jimmy Butler Dunk Face vs. (2) 3-1 Lead

10. Jimmy Butler Dunk Face: Fun fact—Jimmy is reacting to a poster dunk thrown down by Doug “Dougie McBuckets” McDermott.

2. 3-1 Lead: Here’s the thing: If you want to be the Lakers, we’re going to make fun of you like you’re the Lakers. Most dynastic teams—Yankees, Cowboys, Patriots, take your pick—become the villains of their sports. Golden State, despite the owners’ proclamations about how they are light-years ahead of the game, and their essentially unsolvable proposition (two of the best shooters in history, plus Kevin Durant, plus a defensive octopus with Charles Barkley’s in-game attitude), has gotten off pretty easy. If “the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead”—which has become shorthand for needling people with too much confidence and synopsizing the chaotic and unpredictable world we live in—is the worst blowback they ever feel, then they should count themselves as lucky.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    (10) Jimmy Butler Dunk Face
    (9094 votes)
  • 44%
    (2) 3-1 Lead
    (7257 votes)
16351 votes total Vote Now
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