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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Is Basically Himmy Buffett

Or Him Gaffigan. Or President Himmy Carter. Call him what you want, but make sure you call him what he is: one of the best players in the NBA.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Ladies and gentlemen, the 47th president of the United States of America, Himmy Carter.

Another angle, because he’s worth it.

These were the 40th, 41st, and 42nd points of the night for the new prez and the latest example of Himbo Slice’s recent ascent to superstardom. So much sauce. He has leveled up. He is glowing.

A strong flavor and style for days, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the most unique scorers in recent memory. As a ball handler, he makes his moves in the space between the beats. Keeps his stuff silky and distorted, the patron saint of deceleration, speeds up and slows down the frame rate on his drives, then uses his length to surge toward daylight and finish with style. Will happily aim at a defender’s hip and make straight-line drives to the cup, or take more scenic routes. Himothy Olyphant enjoys a nice zag, gets rowdy on the serpentine roads. He has the entire range of Eurosteps at his disposal and can deploy them in an instant. In a crowd he’ll morph into apparition, twist defenders into warped eights. The handle is deceptively tight and he gets slippery on demand. The man’s a purveyor of luxurious hesitations. Guarding him is like trying to shake hands with a tornado.

The vibes and raw numbers are stellar: 31.1 points per game, close to 6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds. The splits are equally beautiful. He’s shooting the dimples off the ball: 53.4 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3, 90.7 percent from the line. Let him get to his spot in the midrange and it’s a wrap. He’s hitting [cups hands] 72.5 percent at the rim, 51.3 percent from 10-16 feet, and 52.2 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line. He’s fifth in points per game, win shares, and VORP, and leads the league in transition scoring, drives, and shirtless trips to the grocery store. His confidence is soaring on both ends, and his defense may have taken an even bigger leap than his offense. He’s at 1.4 blocks per game and 1.8 steals. Himmy Buffett is locked in, creating havoc on the ball and in passing lanes. This is All-NBA behavior. The bag is the size of Tokyo. The Thunder are going to have to start traveling with an extra plane. If you are the company you keep, Gilgeous-Alexander’s easily been a top-10 player this year, and has an argument for top-five. And then there’s his work in the lane.

You have a better chance keeping snow out of Buffalo than you do keeping SGA out of the paint. (Only Luka and Ja are more prolific there.) Thus far this season he’s built vacation homes in the lanes of every arena he’s played. Baroque, swank digs. Lavishly appointed and built for leisure. Four grottos, a bowling alley, two recording studios, a marble bust of Nardwuar, a Chili’s, a Reba Room, Time Crisis 3, and an SCTV-themed loggia overlooking the botanical garden. There’s a neon sign over every door reading “WELCOME TO THE DISCO” and a closet that’s an exact replica of Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors.

What you have to understand about trying to defend this new iteration of Gilgeous-Alexander is it would appear to be next to impossible. Teams that take pride in not doubling have realized that they have no choice. Put two on the ball or die. His in between game is nails. He has the floater working, a wide array of pull-ups, and gets to the rim at will. This is supreme on-ball creation. He can finish through contact with either hand and he can do it while hitting the deck and not looking. The shake and wiggle take center stage—undoubtedly he cha-chas real smooth—but there’s a more consistent physicality to his drives now. Where before it happened once or twice a game, he sheds defenders regularly now.

The 3s haven’t been cut entirely out of his diet, but he’s being selective. It makes sense to be. The damage he does when he gets into the teeth of the defense, settling for a bunch of treys would let them off the hook. The footwork is unassailable. [Arby’s voice.] He has the feets. [Arby’s voice.] He has the treats. Supercharged Stretch-Armstrong finishes. One-handed scoops ushered gently off the glass. Post-spin leaners falling out of bounds. He treats the lane like a funhouse mirror, stretching or shrinking depending on location, his dribble timing and stride length and flow always messing with the defender’s rhythms.

Jason Kidd once said Luka Doncic “has his own speed limit.” The same could be said for Himmy Stewart. He’s lord of the streets and cruising—goes as fast or as slow as he wants and no one can do anything about it. He’s chronically poised, playing at his pace and no one else’s. Never in a tizzy, never rushed, just moving how the play and defense dictates he must. Gilgeous-Alexander does it with craft and skill and a pair of legs that just won’t quit. Gets in the lane and turns into some combination of Doc Ock and Baryshnikov. Goes full Yamaguchi. Triple axels and double lutzes among the trees. He has high-performance brakes: doesn’t matter how fast he’s going, he can stop before you can.

Defenses load up to corral him but it doesn’t matter. Show him a wall of bodies and he will show you all manner of foundational inconsistencies with said barrier. He will show you the holes and the cracks, the flaws in its construction, the areas the architect swung and missed, and the areas the contractor cut corners. Him Gaffigan’s game is uncommonly stretchy. The traditional, eye-popping kind of athleticism isn’t there in the ways it is for other stars—his is more founded in flexibility, balance, and elite touch.

The first step is world-class. He strides past foes, using elongated steps to stretch through and around the defense. He has golden hamstrings and an elastic spine, and weaponizes his length like Giannis Light. He plays with great bend and keeps that ridiculous stride, even when defenses require he get low. There exists in his mind a seemingly never-ending buffet of counters and he has crafted himself a body that can flex and curve and lean how he needs it to. He moves in ways other players just don’t, has infinite mobility when seemingly fully stretched. Sometimes on his drives he looks like a jaguar swimming. Something alien in the movement, mesmerizingly fluid, unorthodox, and smooth.

All stats are current through Saturday’s games.