I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs a tribute post here on Gowhere. This was probably the most in-depth I’ve ever followed the league as a whole, beginning here on Gowhere with a pre-season preview (that’s a fun re-read), a pre-Playoffs preview, 1st Round recap, andNBA Finals preview (these all contain music btw… humor me and click at least one :D). My point being: the San Antonio Spurs clinching The Finals last night, redeeming their heartbreaking loss to last year’s Heat, was as satisfying an ending to a great season for me personally, save for Derrick Rose hoisting the NBA Title in Chicago.
I feel what drew any casual NBA fan to this year’s Spurs was a combination of traits to be admired. For one, the aforementioned narrative of redemption and letting go of past, heartbreaking events to triumph above and achieve one’s goals. Secondly, the Spurs were the consummate team. The dream team for basketball purists: a team that relies on no superstars, plays team defense, and is the best passing team on offense (averaging 3.0 passes per play in the last 3 games in The Finals, for instance.) One of the many fun stats that is further gratifying: “In what may be a testament to the Spurs team philosophy, Tony Parker led the team in scoring this postseason with just 17.4 points per game. According to Elias, that’s the fewest playoff points per game by a championship team’s leading scorer in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).” You get the point, I can go on. But lastly, it’s the much-talked about and easily-seen class of the organization from top to bottom. The ownership, Coach Pop, and Tim Duncan exude humility and respect that they are known for around the league as much as winning championships 15 (!) years apart. All of this was on full display during the Spurs’ joyous post-game trophy presentation when Pop and chairman Peter Holt took to the background while the team mobbed Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili was left near-speechless describing his “true team”.
So without further ado, enjoy some of the visuals that the end of the season brings… images all parts epic, elation, and hilarious below and if you hadn’t press play already above: an amazing unofficial NBA Playoffs Recap video that is better than any official one to drop in the future. Approximately 4.5 months until the start of the next NBA Regular Season. *nods head*
With the 2014 NBA Finals underway tonight, I feel it’s only right to write some words on Heat-Spurs II, especially after my previous soundtracks to recap a 1st Round for the Ages and Playoff Preview. While the latter link contains some now-laughable predictions, I can at least hang my hat on the correct one that matters: Spurs vs. Heat. I wrote the Spurs would be celebrating to “Trophies” back then in April and I won’t be changing my pick now since after seeing the Spurs at their best the past 2 rounds has only made me more confident they stop the Heat Peat.
So that means you can stop reading right now, right? Wrong! What new song embodies the Spurs and Heat this June? Before I reveal, a movie-style trailer above to get you amped up for Game 1.
I can’t remember when I was this excited about a rematch in which I had no horse in the race. Maybe that’s in large part because the NBA Finals rarely boasts rematches: the last one was Bulls-Jazz in ’97 and ’98 and I clearly had a horse in that race. Before that it was Pistons-Lakers in ’89 and ’90 and I was 3 years old. I should note though that the Celtics-Lakers Finals in 2 out of 3 years has a similar to vibe to the Spurs this time hosting the Heat.
Alas, there is one new song that instantly jumped to mind for various reasons to personify the most complete team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.
Common’s new single “Kingdom” is an exemplary record of depth and substance that looks at the harsh realities of urban life, set to a monumental, ominous church sound. Com Sense links up with producer and longtime collaborator No I.D. for the first single to Nobody’s Smiling, and together, they team up for a raw hip hop gem on par to the quality of their collabs 20 years ago on Ressurrection or even before that on Com’s 1992 debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?. It’s just that “Kingdom” has that cutting-edge 2014 raw sound just as Common’s first two albums were cutting-edge for the early 90s.
So needless to say, you can see where I’m going here right? Common and No I.D. are the Duncan and Popovich of hip hop: both duos excelling and adapting their craft today as all-star veterans after establishing such rapport and success together as rookies in the game. And if Com & No I.D. are Duncan and Pop, then think of Vince Staples as the Kawhi Leonard of “Kingdom” as he infuses his youthful energy and thought-provoking perspective into the single. If Staples didn’t bring his ‘A’ game to bring the song full circle with the concluding line, “make the best from the least on the quest for them keys, to the kingdom,” then Common’s single wouldn’t be a championship-level record.
The analogy applies for Kawhi who has improved since last year’s Finals to become a deadly two-way threat, capable of slowing LeBron James down and making him work defensively. His emerging confidence, and health, along with Ginobili’s improved health and play compare to this time last year are enough to swing my prediction to the Spurs, especially with Tony Parker looking like he’ll be OK to start out the series.
This comparison is a little more self-explanatory. For the past four seasons really, the Miami Heat have had the quickest on/off switch in the league. When the Big 3 are clicking, or LeBron, Wade, and a role player or two, the Heat are unguardable. That usually goes hand-in-hand with forcing timely turnovers and letting LeBron loose in the open court. Therefore, the most fascinating matchup will be the Spurs-league leading assist offense versus the Heat defense. I’m curious to see if LeBron will be jumping those passing lanes and if he does and is successful, watch out.
Speaking of LeBron, isn’t he due for a dominant legendary Finals? Jalen Rose brought this up in yesterday’s Jalen Rose Report: LeBron hasn’t yet had the Jordan-esque game-to-game series yet in his previous 4 trips to the Finals. With LeBron fully in his prime and experience in the clutch, a LeBron-led Heat series win in 6 would not at all be surprising. After all, noted Drizzy fan Bron may be rapping this line from “0 to 100” during tonight’s Game 1 warmups.
If I ain’t the greatest than I’m headed for it!
*nods head* Perfectly applicable.
That said, Spurs in 6 in perfectly poetic fashion in Miami.
And having said that, I can’t help but resist a couple bonus tidbits today:
What were Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant doing the night of the eve of The Finals? Why, having dinner together reports TMZ. Perhaps they were talking about their respective Finals anniversaries today… (albeit Jordan’s a tad bit more iconic)
OH, A SPECTACULAR MOVE, BY MICHAEL JORDAN!
(As pumped as I am for tonight, those were the days.)
Follow along as I predict who wins the NBA Title while simultaneously dedicating a new song to each team and the game’s biggest superstars. Catch up on your new music and have a laugh or two (maybe) along the way. This is not your usual NBA Playoff Preview.
Best Case Scenario: The Pacers get it together, win Game 7 against the Heat at home (justifying their annoying quest for the 1 seed), and earning a 50/50 chance to win the title against whomever comes out of the West.
Worst Case Scenario: Indiana loses Game 1 to the Hawks at home, crumbles under the increased pressure, and loses to the 38-44 #8 seed in what would be as shocking of an 8-1 upset as the ’94 Nuggets.
What May or May Not Happen: Indiana survives Rounds 1 and 2, looking as vulnerable as they have in March and April, only for their run to end to the Miami Heat, a la last season in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lance Stephenson, if he has a good playoffs, gets overpaid by the Pacers and if he has a bad playoffs, still gets overpaid by someone else. Andrew Bynum permanently is out of the league. Roy Hibbert permanently joins the cast of Parks & Rec.
Atlanta Hawks Drake “Days In The East”
The aforementioned Atlanta Hawks finished 38 and 44. Therefore, it’s only right that Drake’s newest sad R&B song, appropriately titled “Days in the East” applies to the 8 seed.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns finished 48 and 34 and did not make the playoffs. So, also fittingly, they earn the track “West District” — ironically PARTYNEXTDOOR’s superior solo version of the above track he actually produced for Drake.
Phoenix Suns PARTYNEXTDOOR “West District”
Chicago Bulls The Boy Illinois f/ GLC “Old School RMX”
1. You know we gotta keep it local for the hometown Bulls.
2. Let’s go “Old School” like the Bulls’ style of play with this collab between a Chicago veteran (GLC) and one of the city’s brightest up and comers (The Boy Illinois). GLC’s puff-your-chest-out verse sets the tone and demands respect akin to the trademark Thibs defense. Illi’s smooth style and delivery touches on some different topics, and drives the Bulls comparison home with the track’s versatility a representation of the team’s various offensive options. One game it’s D.J. over 20, another it’s Taj with 15 off the bench. Or Jimmy, Boozer, Dunleavy, or Noah. Though the Bulls don’t have a go-to scorer and finished in the bottom 5 in offensive efficiency, the offense has run smooth through Joakim Noah (leading the team in assists) since the Luol Deng trade and challenged the opposition with an unexpectedly high number of options.
Worst Case Scenario: The Bulls’ bottom-5 offense proves itself in the playoffs, as the Wizards’ athletic backcourt shuts down team leading scorer D.J. Augustin (fire up your time machine and read this sentence 6 months ago) and a healthy Nene cuts off Joakim Noah’s passing lanes and consequently 90% of the Bulls’ offense. John Wall outclasses his first NBA mentor Kirk Hinrich and is the best player in the series as the Wiz advance in 6.
Best Case Scenario: The gritty Bulls continue to embody our city with blue-collar hard work and the heart of a united family on their way past the Wizards and upsetting the Indiana Pacers. Next is a hard fought, yet short series loss to the Miami Heat in which every game was close. In the end, the Bulls were missing their closer and MVP…
Derrick Rose Chance The Rapper “Save Yourself First”
Could the song title be any more fitting, especially coming from the anointed one of Chicago rap? Released in March, Chance’s original version of his James Blake remix oddly doubles as sage advice for Chicago’s anointed one of… well, everything. I hope this year though the city obliges to Rose’s out for the postseason status without starting any drama. If the Bulls are fighting hard against the rival Pacers in Round 2 though, I think the city’s vitriol against it’s hometown hero will sadly return. I just happen to have a hunch (i.e. inside info from a source who’s close to a source of Rose’s camp… whatever that’s worth I know) that our hometown hero will return (if the Bulls get that far).
Miracle Case Scenario: Down 2-0 to the Pacers in Round 2, heading back to Chicago, Derrick Rose returns at the United Center to a raucous crowd that sways the momentum of the series, even though he only plays 10 effective minutes in his return. The minutes restriction loosens as the series progresses with Thibs playing Rose all 48 minutes in the stunning Game 7 victory (just kidding, but seriously.) Rose then avenges the Bulls’ 2011 ECF loss to the Heat, outplaying LeBron James and hitting a series-clinching buzzer beater over his outstretched arm. Then the Bulls defeat the MVP Kevin Durant-led Thunder at home as Rose hits an open Jimmer Fredette for the series-icing 3, solidifying Jimmer’s place amongst Bulls folk heroes John Paxson and Steve Kerr. The whole journey soon becomes a 30 For 30 narrated in spoken word raps by Kanye West.
It’s just a hunch though, I’m not going to get carried away.
Washington Wizards & Charlotte Bobcats Real T@lk “Happy (Unofficial Pharrell RMX)”
The choice of “Happy” is really geared more toward the fan bases of the once lowly Wizards and once lowly Bobcats because I don’t really get a “happy to be here” vibe from the preliminary interviews with each team’s stars. So instead of choosing the token “happy people dancing to ‘Happy'” video I’m bringing back the best rap remix I’ve seen of Pharrell’s mega-hit, courtesy of Chicago wordsmith Real T@lk. Sure enough, his music video is a happy one too.
Best Case Scenario: The Wizards follow the same best case scenario as the Bulls, with John Wall making the leap into the top tier of point guards. The Bobcats take a game from the Heat on ABC as LeBron James misses a buzzer beater in front of the Bobcats bench, as Michael Jordan is unable to hide a “I would have made that, you’re not worthy of starring in Space Jam 2” face.
It’s put up or shut up time for the Brooklyn Nets so what better track to bring them in than “Gametime” — a Convertibles standout from Chuck Inglish and huge basketball fan/New Yorker Action Bronson. When the Nets tanked the last three games of the season to avoid playing the Bulls (Marquis Teague was starting at SF for crying out loud), the Raptors, naturally, took offense to this. I mean, look at this morning’s Toronto Sun…
In a series that I think is dead even on paper, I’m looking at an outside intangible that will determine the winner. I think the strong “Be careful what you wish for…” vibes, a galvanized Raptors home crowd, and Drake’s motivational commercial will be just enough to make up for the Raptors’ lack of experience and closing ability (3-8 in games decided by 3 or less points this season). Look for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to win the backcourt battle and propel the Raps in 7 into the second round.
Toronto Raptors Drake “Draft Day”
How did the game turn into the Drake show?
Best Case Scenario: Having said that, the most exciting thing about the Toronto Raptors is a tie between Drake and a Terrence Ross tomahawk. Unfortunately for the upstart Raptors, their playoff run will most certainly end in Miami and the next thing they’ll have to look forward to is actual “Draft Day”.
On the plus side, a Toronto-Miami conference semifinal could create a rift between Drake and Heat fan rappers like Rick Ross. Any scenario that leads to more subliminal disses by Drake is a scenario I want to root for.
Carmelo Anthony Michael Jackson “Xscape”
The biggest non-Playoff storyline is whether or not Carmelo Anthony will “Xscape” the Knicks. Ironically, after Michael Jackson’s posthumous single leaked last week, the song has since been taken down everywhere on the interwebs and the only official preview is the measly 16 seconds above. Omen aside though, I don’t see ‘Melo leaving New York and Phil Jackson (and more money). If I were Melo, I’d ride it out one more year until the Knicks will assuredly get better in 2015-16. Besides, having just completed Phil’s Eleven Ringsbook this week, I’d follow whatever the Zen Master says (phenomenal read).
Clippers vs. Warriors Krewella “Enjoy The Ride (Armin Van Burren RMX)”
We transition west to the most exciting first round series (on paper) so we need a song that’s different from hip hop to personify that.
Filling that need is my favorite uptempo, EDM/club record of the year so far: Armin van Burren’s remix of Krewella’s “Enjoy The Ride”. The breakdown of the beat in the chorus is the track’s highlight, just as the breakdown of opposing defenses by Chris Paul and Steph Curry will prove to be the highlight of the series. The only bummer is that Andrew Bogut is likely out for the playoffs, lessening the chance of a brawl between these two teams who hate each other, and more importantly the chance of a Warriors upset. It’s still possible if Steph reaches NBA Jam “He’s on fire!” level, but I see the Clips advancing in 6.
L.A. Clippers “We Made It”
This leads us to the Clippers’ ceiling. They set a franchise record for wins this season (57) and it feels like they are true contenders with Doc Rivers at the helm and the improved play of star Blake Griffin. “We Made It!” — but which version is it?
Above is the solid new version by Jay Z & Jay Electronica, which will ultimately be most remembered for Hov’s lob at Drake (no pun intended.. Lob City):
Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk
Silly me rappin’ ’bout shit that I really bought
For me personally though, I haven’t listened to it since the day it came out last month, instead gravitating back towards Drake’s version that dropped at the top of the year.
Best Case Scenario: The Clippers ride CP3, Blake, and DeAndre all the way to the promised land over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, breaking a Finals record for most combined alley-oops uploaded to YouTube. *cues the best version of “We Made It” — Drake’s*
Memphis Grizzlies Logic “Now”
Was somebody back then all a sudden now they fuckin’ wit me now (fuckin’ wit me now)…
Remember that we’re less than a year removed from the Memphis Grizzlies being in the Western Conference Finals. That fact, plus the fact that the reason the Grizz are the #7 seed is because Marc Gasol missed about a third of the season, makes for a seamless connection to Logic’s new slept-on anthem “Now”.
The overlooked notion of the chorus alone personifies what the Grizzlies must be feeling as they return to the postseason, going 40-19 since Gasol’s return to earn a first round matchup with playoff rival Oklahoma City. And I get the sense that the added shooting of Courtney Lee and Mike Miller makes this season’s roster better than last year’s.
It’s unfortunate that they are matching up with the future MVP, Kevin Durant, and OKC because the Grizzlies do have what it takes to make it back to the WCF. Zach Randolph is going to have to step it up from his 10 and 7 on 33% shooting versus the Thunder this season for that to happen though.
I see this first round series going 7 with the Thunder’s tough home crowd giving them the edge in the deciding game. No matter the result, the Grizzlies are definitely a team to be fuckin’ wit now.
Houston vs. Portland Asher Roth “Fast Life”
What may turn out to be the more entertaining first round series than Clippers-Warriors is the Rockets-Blazers, due to this being the matchup between the two teams with the highest 3 point field goals made over the season. For any casual basketball fan reading this, try and catch one of these games and you’re bound to see a highly fun, high scoring affair.
So where does Asher Roth fit in? Well, the “Fast Life” music video is one of the best in 2014 and gives the song a deeper, more thought-provoking meaning. The short film presentation is so well-done and the concept of asking random people to take a note out of the box proves to be a feel-good inspiration. For any casual hip hop fan reading this, stop for a sec and press play above.
My connection between the “Fast Life” video to the Rockets and Blazers is that the winner of this series will use this experience on a deeper level next year. I think both teams are one year away from being true title contenders and to get to that status, teams typically need to go through the baby steps and subsequent growing pains. The winner (which I think will be the Rockets) will draw on the confidence gained from winning a playoff series this season for next year’s run when everyone on each team will be one year older and one year better.
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long
Cause it won’t be too long..
Unfortunately for the Mavericks, it won’t be too long in the 2014 Playoffs. It’s of no fault of their own, really. Being in the competitive Western Conference, someone has to be the 8 seed and face the Spurs. The matchup isn’t a great one for Dirk & Co. so I expect them to bow out in a short series.
The lightbulb went on, however, when I heard the repetitive “Cause it won’t be too long” sung so infectiously by RDGLDGRN in last weekend’s Stevie Wonder cover. This is the Mavs right now! It was one of the main connections that inspired this piece and a way to push new music through a creative format, and hopefully let you readers discover new artists that you may not have heard yet. In fact, I’m going to keep it going…
Dirk Nowitzki RDGLDGRN “Doing The Most”
My favorite track from RDGLDGRN’s debut self-titled album is appropriate for a 35-year old Dirk Nowitzki who is “Doing The Most” with a Mavericks supporting cast that, outside of Monta Ellis, is removed from its prime. As the record’s theme suggests, less is more — and I hope that Dirk gains a greater supporting cast in the next year so he can do less and make one more serious run at the Finals before he retires. I like the Monta fit, but now Cuban has to put Mr. Wonderful and his fellow Sharks on pause to get Dirk some more young talent around him.
San Antonio Spurs Kid Cudi “Return Of The Moon Man”
I’m sure Coach Pop would be happy to know that I chose a song with no words to represent the 2014 Spurs. In fact, I got an e-mail reply from him that simply read “Who are you?”, which basically means Happy Pop.
All jokes aside, the only fact in the previous two sentences is that this song has no words. Kid Cudi’s “Return of the Moon Man” is instead a self-produced instrumental from his new Satellite Flight album that is the most calm pump up song I have ever heard. Seriously. And there is such a thing as the oxymoron “calm pump up song”. It’s because “Return of the Moon Man” is a journey the Spurs, and us all, can relate to.
The rise of a pulsating melody defines the first three minutes of the track, followed by a solemn guitar solo that inspires zen reflection. It puts the listener at a state of calm — a platform I like to create from in the heat of the moment, not high-octane angst or anxiety. The singular plucks of the high-pitched notes blend back into the same marching melody as before, with added background percussion layers giving the rest of the track a monumental feel. I like to think of this record as Cudi facing deep thoughts of reflection or even sadness and then triumphing over them, ready to meet life’s challenges when the guitar solo ends and the energy ignites again.
It goes without saying what the Spurs’ version of the solemn guitar solo is the way last season ended. It’s no surprise that they have triumphed over adversity this season to become an even stronger unit, improving from within, and prime to finish what they started.
Duncan and Parker continue to play at a high level, a healthy Ginobili looks even more effective (remember, he was banged up last June), and Kawhi Leonard is a two-way machine that can matchup with the Durants and LeBrons in addition to providing his own offensive punch. Add in the depth (no Spur averaged above 29 minutes this season) and all this is why I think the Spurs will be celebrating to the greatest celebratory song to drop in 2014. You know where I was going with this one…
But wait… who can stop the Spurs?
Kevin Durant Kid Cudi “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now”
I am a person with powers
I possess the power
You can’t hide
See me shine
The concluding words of Kid Cudi’s masterful (and amazingly titled) “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now” are no more characteristic for anyone than it is for Kevin Durant. His offensive season is one for the record books (32/7/5 + 50/39/87%) and will lead to his first league MVP. The playoffs are when superstars elevate themselves to another level; after all, that’s why their superstars. Kevin Durant has all the momentum, gone through the growing pains, and improved his overall team game (career high in assists, most notably) to a level where he can carry his team to a championship.
I underestimated the Thunder at the beginning of the season (not making the conference finals in my pre-season preview) because I don’t really trust KD’s supporting cast outside of Russ and Ibaka (and I don’t trust Westbrook’s decision making in the clutch), but the zone that Durant is in can supersede anything. As much as I like the Spurs getting the title, I see just as likely of a (best case) scenario where the Thunder’s athleticism powers them through San Antonio and Durant tops LeBron in the Finals for his first title and, biggest of all, the end of the Lil B curse.
So what about the scenario where the Heat three peat?
Dwayne Wade The Roots “When The People Cheer”
To me, the key to the Heat three peating is which Dwyane Wade we’re going to get. He has missed 33 games this season to rest various nagging injuries, but I have a feeling we’re going to see the same old Dwyane Wade of the past two seasons as an effective Robin to LeBron’s Batman. I think the media is playing up the Wade is “old, too injured, and a non-factor” narrative too much that we’ll see a drastic 180 “When The People Cheer” and the media pretends like they never doubted D. Wade at all.
LeBron James Future “I Won” f/ Kanye West
This leaves LeBron James as the last player or team to have a song loosely attached to them, and the relevant choice is hip hop’s most braggadocious song out right now: Future’s “I Won” featuring Kanye West (taking the belt from “Sanctified”). The video premiered the other night and I couldn’t help but think of the throne status that Hype Williams has a way of depicting Kanye. And right now, LeBron and the Heat are atop the throne. And no matter if the Heat flame out, LeBron can play the “I Won” card twice.
It’s just that come June, LeBron and the Heat can redefine their legacy with a three peat.
The best case scenario is certainly, and clearly in play; I just don’t think it will happen. The Heat have struggled down the stretch finishing 11-14 since March 4th, the defense has been the most inconsistent in the Big 3 era (12th in the league in Defensive Rating), and the supporting cast looks as ineffective and the least imposing of the last two seasons.
So 3 titles in 3 years? Nope! I predict the Heat falling short to the Spurs (and the Thunder and Clippers if they meet them).
BUT, the Heat will win the East. (You know, barring any sort of Miracle Case Scenario…)
Interviewing rappers about their favorite wraps. Just that is phenomenal. And not only that, it’s a humorous, well-executed new web series by the hilarious longtime role player of the San Antonio Spurs: Matt Bonner. As an avid NBA fan, I’ve actually seen a few interviews with, whom Spurs fans call the Red Mamba (akin to Chicago fans coining the White Mamba for Brian Scalabrine), and Bonner has a great, dry sense of humor. That naturally plays well, given the concept, and that his first guest is of great contrast to him: Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys. Enjoy not only their brief interview but a great intro to bring it in above.