Diss Guy: Stephen Curry
Usually our choices for Diss Guy and Miss Guy are outside the box candidates. But sometimes the box smacks you upside the head: my favorite player on my favorite team went 11–13 on three-pointers, scored 54 points and single-handedly almost led his undermanned and tired team to victory in Madison Square Garden. Who the hell else did you think was going to end up here?
This summer, as part of their #HoopRank project, the collective ESPN hivemind ranked Stephen as the 40th best player in the NBA, and the ninth best point guard, behind Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Kyrie Irving. I don’t particularly feel like having the “player x is better than player y” debate, so suffice to say, Stephen Curry is closer to the 10th best player in the NBA than the 40th, and is certainly better than the 9th ranked point guard.
Steph Curry is the Diss guy of the week because for the first time since Latrell Sprewell last played for the Dubs in 1998, I have a superstar to root for. Feel free to quibble over my definition of the undefinable term “superstar” but know this: Stephen Curry is the best in the history of basketball at a skill that has quickly become perhaps the most important for a player to possess. The fact that he shimmies after using it is just the gravy on top.
Miss Guy: Dennis Rodman
Who knows how it happened, or why exactly it happened, but it happened: Dennis Rodman, four-time NBA champion, hall of fame member, and 90s pre-internet oddity par excellence made it into the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (and pro-tip: any country that has “Democratic People’s Republic” in front of it is rarely democratic, usually dismissive of people, and is a republic by name only). Using the tried-and-true tactic of “basketball diplomacy”, a standard from the Kissinger years, Rodman (as well as the Harlem Globetrotters, literally trotting the globe, along with Vice magazine) has spread juicy roundball goodness across the beautifully unknown landscape, fostering peace, love and happiness between the two enemies. For the past few days, we’ve seen small snippets of the Worm’s travels through North Korea, including him and “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Un, taking in a basketball game in Pyongyang. In remarks afterwards, the Worm, international diplomat and peace-maker, said that in Kim Jong-Un, he had a “friend for life.”
I’m sure The Worm has some interesting friends. He’s a well traveled man, and very well connected. But how many of his friends maintain concentration camps where political prisoners are literally worked and starved to death? How many friends oversee “government-enforced mass starvation, child slavery, brutal torture and rape, arbitrary executions and killings, forced abortions and infanticide”? How many friends use government money to fund a disgusting cult of personality, redirecting funds that could be used to educate and feed his citizenry to instead create huge statues and festivals for themselves?
Because of its reclusive nature, the appearance and reported behavior of its eccentric former dictator, and bizarre nationalist practices, North Korea comes off as something of a joke. Team America: World Police presents a comical, nativist image of Kim Jong-Il, a silly, small who mispronounces his “L’s” and is hell bent on farcical world domination and overcoming his “roneriness”. In addition, examples of North Korean state propaganda (and corresponding analysis of that propaganda) dwell on the superficial peculiarities of the practice—enforced crying and celebration, in particular—instead of the deeper political meanings of a totalitarian state, and what that means for its trapped citizenry. As such, the humanitarian crisis in North Korea does not get the same attention as other failed states in Africa, Asia, Central Asia and South America. The image of Dennis Rodman with Kim Jong-Un, his friend for life, could be swapped out with Bashar Al-Assad, Pol Pot, Slobodon Milosevic or Mobutu Sese Seko. Would it be funny then?
Call me dour, a wet blanket, or whatever. It’s just not a good look to be friends with genocidal, oppressive dictators.