• Matt Esposito

Kevin Durant, A LaMelo Conspiracy, And My Conscious Walk Into A Bar

(photo: Rookiewire)

If you listen closely, somewhere between the Antonio Brown psychodrama and the Lahren v. Hill proxy war in Mason Rudolph, exciting NBA scouting news can be heard. LaMelo Ball played his first professional game against the defending champions in Australia's top basketball league. What's more, he balled out, dropping 19 points, snatching a game-high 13 boards and sinking his first four triples.

The good Ball news continues, too. Apparently, LaMelo has reached a height of 6-foot-8 and packed on 10-15 pounds of muscle. If you needed more affirmation that he is going to be a big deal all year long until draft day, consider that 27 NBA scouts made their way down under to watch him play. Oh, and guess what else happened...

I decided that I couldn't care less.

In fact, I was disgruntled by this positive development. At first, I thought I was just properly gruntled (insert laughs from The Office fans here.) But upon further review and a quick conference call with the rules center in New Jersey, it turns out my disgruntledness is within the rules. Because, to the ire of gen Zers everywhere, I have an irrational hatred for that entire family. Well, kinda.

As a member of OTG's scout team, I have taken an interest in LaMelo. My first impression of him left me thinking, "this kid is a twig with a push-shot and I cannot wait for his whatcouldhavebeen documentary to drop." Turns out that Ball can hoop. This maddens me and if you're either intrigued or angered enough to keep reading, I will tell you why and do so with an old, Italian adage.

"Il pesce puzza dalla testa." The fish stinks from the head. Do I dislike LaVar Ball because the "v" in his first name is inexplicably capitalized? A little. But I mainly dislike him because he is simply the most annoying man in sports culture. His ego is so inflated that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would literally float away like a helium balloon if he and Trump were to ever occupy the same space.

So naturally, I tend to loathe the other Balls by association. Which is markedly stupid. Objectively stupid, even. But makes so much sense in the sports world. Villainizing American sports figures because their dad is Chinese water torture in human skin is a tale as old as time (insert laughs from Beauty and the Beast fans here.) In our social world, we should praise this wholesome family for their success. In sports world, however, hating the Balls is the most logical thing I could do.

I mean, have you ever watched them on social media? There's a conspiracy theory here. Yes, I think one of JFK's secret service agents was accidentally the second shooter. Stanley Kubrick filmed the moon landings and Sammy Watkins is an actual reptile/human hybrid. But what if I told you that LaMelo, LiAngelo and Lonzo are aliens...

Some evidence just smacks you in the face. Freakishly tall and athletic youngsters who could actually have eyes in the back of their respective heads? LaVar's teeth? Makes sense. But take note of their social media activity. Awkward rap careers that aren't serious but are kind of serious? Check. Forced participation in the latest dance crazes? Check. Tattered and gilded shoewear? Check. A reality show that couldn't live up to what little hype it had? Check. The only way the Balls make any sense is if you think of them as a handful of extraterrestrial agents who forgot they were being deployed to Earth and decided to cram in their last-minute preparation by thumbing through Instagram and Kardashian reruns.

LaMelo is one e-boy painted nail away from being whisked away into Area 51.

Contrary to what my Italian grandma believes, I amma no dumma boy, however. Oh, and contrary to what my ex-girlfriends believe, I do have the ability for introspection and self-honesty. My hatred for LaMelo (and the others) is dangerous. It borders upon a territory I often preach against. No fan should ever root for a player to fail. I am this close to wanting that for LaMelo and that is a terrible thing.

But this is sports. Hating athletes is not only fun, it's customary. Where would the world be if everyone loved Roger Clemens. At this very moment there is someone pressing send on a tweet that features the words "Snake" and "Kevin Durant" in some order. Speaking of KD...

I hate him too. I don't know the guy at all and am sure he is a wonderful human being who donates to charity and wants a good life the same as I do. But I hate him. I hated him ever since he decided to become a champion at Golden State. The fake Twitter accounts, the recent, boneheaded comments about OKC, the air of aloofness that has probably transformed into his own scent.. These all are reasons to hate him. Despite all of this, I cannot root for him to fail.

And this is the paradox we have come to in 2019.

Both LaMelo Ball and Kevin Durant are villians to me. Yet, I can't just wish failure upon them. As of right now, their happiness is intrinsically tethered to their basketball success. Rooting for their hoops failure is synonymous to rooting for their personal misery. I'm no saint, but even I won't stoop that low. Concurrently, and I must write this in all caps, IT PAINS ME TO SEE THEM BE SUCCESSFUL.

So, what's a blogger to do? Smirk when I see a NBL box score detrimental to LaMelo's draft stock? Mouth "excellent" and tap my fingers together like Mr. Burns when Durant and Kyrie get into their first on-court tussle? But, like, isn't gaining joy from the pain of others a bad thing? Yes, yes it is. Is this the basketball purgatory I am destined to live in forever?

I apologize. This is the part of the blog where I am supposed to offer some resolution. Whoops. I got nothin' for you guys. So let's flip this around. Instead of me attempting to pontificate my thoughts unto others, I shall ask for advice.

NBA fans and OTG faithful, what the hell should I do about my basketball villians?

#LaMeloBall #KevinDurant #MattEsposito