EuroBall and Beatz: “El Chacho” and “Baby Blue” by Action Bronson

This is the first part of a series called “EuroBall and Beatz” where I highlight a Euroleague player’s highlight MixTape and a song from an up and coming musical artist or act. Check the page on the header to see the complete collection of posts in this series.

That is not a homeless guy or the lead singer from Bon Iver…that is El Chacho, and safe to say European basketball fans’ loss will be the NBA’s gain (hopefully…)

“El Chacho” Sergio Rodriguez “Euroleague Stars” Mix

If there is one player I’m going to miss greatly in the Euroleague next year, it is “El Chacho” Sergio Rodriguez from Real Madrid. In many ways, Chacho was the Euroleague and ACB’s answer to former Sacramento King and Memphis Grizzly (and Orlando Magic and Miami Heat if you want to be semantic) point god Jason Williams, only Spanish-speaking, a bit smaller, and a whole lot more hipster with that killer beard of his. (Seriously, that beard is dope; he looks like a logger from Western South Dakota, only instead of cutting trees up with an ax, he’s cutting defenders up with slick handles, and no-look passes).

Rodriguez isn’t exactly young at 30 years old, but his career has gone through a bit of revitalization after coming back to Spain from the NBA in 2010. In that time span, he has primarily played for Real Madrid, and in addition to tantalizing fans (and like, on the cusp of erotically tantalizing…just kidding…or am I?) with his assortment of killer crossovers, sensational passes, and crazy, streaky shooting, he also has helped kept Real a power on the European and Spanish scene. He has been a 3-time All-ACB player (2014-2016), a Euroleague MVP (2014) and an All-Euroleague 1st team player (2014) and led Real to a Euroleague title in 2015. And he’s done this despite the presence of Sergio Llull, another high-profile, high-usage Spanish guard, who more or less plays the same position (Llull is more of a point guard who focuses on shooting and scoring rather than El Chacho, who focuses more on playmaking; but they are essentially both point guards).

The most endearing part of El Chacho’s legacy in this latest go-around in Europe is that he doesn’t seem to worry about the media or the spotlight (seriously, how many players would defer the “attention” to another player on a team as big as Real Madrid?). Instead, he’s all about letting his game on the court do the talking and creating magnificent play on the court. He’s like an Andy Warhol, but instead of Campbell Soup and Madonna postmodern paintings, and canvases, El Chacho stupefies audiences (and opponents) in the pick and roll and with floaters at the rim. There were glimpses of this kind of “El Chacho” when he played in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, but it hasn’t been until the last few years or so in Real that El Chacho really has been given the freedom on the court from head coach Pablo Lasso to stretch out his wings and fly as a point guard savant.

I know that some basketball fans aren’t as pumped about his arrival. People will point that he’s 30, and that he didn’t succeed in the NBA the first time, and that the Euroleague isn’t the same as the NBA. Yeah, we get it. The Euroleague and European basketball isn’t the same as the NBA. But you know what? El Chacho will have a better coach in Brett Brown that will allow him to play more freely than he was allowed to in Nate McMillan’s “boring ass” offensive system in Portland. (Seriously Larry Bird…you fire Frank Vogel for not running a “fast offense” and you then hire Nate “I’m so fucking boring, let’s see how many Isos I can run for Brandon Roy even though he is clearly 75 percent healthy” McMillan? Good luck!) He will be going to a team that is used to misery; and TJ McConnell, Kendall Marshall, and Ish Smith at point guard; and the mindset that they won’t be competitive for at least another 2-4 years. Just imagine the joy El Chacho will bring with his passes, his crossovers, his crazy step backs from feet beyond the arc? Forget “the Process”. Sixers fans will be making all kinds of “El Chacho” chants instead of their usual “Trust Sam Hinkie” ones (which they can’t do anymore anyways, because you know, he’s fired).

Maybe El Chacho wasn’t the best player on his own team that past few years (you could argue Llull or Gustavo Ayon would take that honor). But he was the most fun and entertaining, and did so in a joyful, playful, but humble way. Damn it, Philly. You better appreciate it him for who he is and what he brings on a nightly basis, because you know Spanish and Euroleague fans will be aching for his spectacular skill set by November, maybe sooner (myself included).

 

Action Bronson is a musical savant who entertains audiences in a multitude of ways (like El Chacho) and has a really awesome, gnarly beard (also like El Chacho!)

Action Bronson (feat. Chance the Rapper)-“Baby Blue”

To stay on the theme of “Savants with Beards”, the beatz portion will focus on Action Bronson’s track “Baby Blue” which features Chicago-based hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper, who’s like the biggest fucking thing in rap music right now. I mean, honestly, Chance right now is like at “Pokemon Go” levels with his latest rap album “Coloring Book”. The album and his status spit so much fire, that you have all kinds of hipsters, rap critics, and twitter folks losing their shit every time the song is added to a public playlist on Spotify or is played in a coffee shop or hookah bar beyond 7 p.m. on a weekend evening.

But this isn’t about Lil Chano from 79th, this is about Bronson, an artist in the current rap game now like El Chacho is in the world of basketball. Bronson (a former high-end restaurant chef turned self-made hip hop lyricist) and his style harken back to that intense 90’s hip-hop scene that really developed general music fan’s opinions and educated them how rap could be a diverse, deep, and legitimate musical art form. His rap reminds you of a cross between old Wu Tang, Nas, and Biggie with some Fat Joe or Big Pun stylings slightly mixed in. It’s definitely loud, blunt, and in your face, kind of like Action Bronson’s presence himself, who definitely sticks out with his large frame, Brooklyn Hipster-chic wardrobe (he is from Queens, New York) and bushy, dope-ass beard. (He has to hold his facial locks while eating sometimes, as evidenced on his own show on Munchies, appropriately named “Fuck, That is Delicious”, which is by the way, fucking awesome).

And that’s what makes this collaboration with Chance such a refreshing tweak to Action’s musical style: Chance is not the kind of intense, “I’m gonna fuck you up if you jack with me” rapper that Action is, and that really balances “Baby Blue” out. Chance is really chill as fuck as a rapper in his music, and to be perfectly honest, somewhat joyful in his style (not to say he doesn’t have edge; but let’s be honest here, there are a lot of God and church influence in “Coloring Book”; nihilism is something Chance ain’t down with). And with his more “upbeat” influence, it blends well with Action’s brash approach, creating a dope track that is worth jamming to on multiple occasions.

Action Bronson and El Chacho. Two bearded artists who are killer at their craft and probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve at times in their respective fields.

We need to get these two together, with Action wearing a Philly “El Chacho” jersey in a Snapchat or something soon. Maybe when El Chacho gets more situated to East Coast Philly life of course; I’m sure he’s focused more on working with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor in the pick and roll, not hanging with hip hop artists who are filming restaurant shows on Vice on the side.

But give it a couple of months. And keep an eye on that “Rodriguez” jersey on the Sixers NBA Store. And see what Action Bronson does…(I can hope, right?)

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NBA Hipster Profile: Jason Williams (i.e. “White Chocolate”)

Jason Williams (center) was not just known for his spectacular play, but also carrying a NBA Hipster legacy

NBA Hipster Profile is a part of Flannel, PBR and PER where I look at NBA players both past and current who represent the “Hipster” players of their generation or time. This can be in terms of style, the way they played, their attitude with media, management, players, etc. Hopefully this becomes a year-around series that also delves into the D-League and College game as well.

Jason Williams was probably one of the most important players during the Rick Adelman era in Sacramento. I am not saying he was the best player or most crucial to their success. In fact, his successor, Mike Bibby, experienced much more success as the point guard of the Kings, especially in the postseason (Bibby was a catalyst in the 2002 playoffs, especially against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he almost pushed the Kings to the NBA Finals). But even though Bibby was probably the better overall point guard and had a more lasting impact on the Kings in terms of wins and losses, nobody jump started the new era of the Kings more than Williams. Through his brash, highlight-making, and unapologetic style of play, Williams helped the Kings jump onto the national radar and began the process of what would be their incredible run in the early 2000’s. But more importantly, he inspired a generation of point guards and guard play that was incredibly against the grain and well…hipster.

Why was Jason Williams hipster, even if such a term did not really exist for him during his playing career? Let’s look at a few reasons why.

Reason #1: His style of play was incredibly different from what was expected from NBA point guards

Williams in all sense of the word was a showman, especially when it came to his passing and ballhandling. Regularly, Williams was a regular feature on Top-10 lists on Sportscenter and his style of play not only captivated fans, but also inspired a generation of “streetball” players that eventually morphed into a greater interest and participation into the “And1 MixTape Tour” movement.  You wouldn’t think a white guy from West Virginia, who played college basketball in a Football-Mad conference (He played at Florida and in the SEC) would have such a profound impact on the game of basketball not just in the NBA, but at the amateur level with And1. But, I have a hard time seeing And1 stars such as “The Professor“, for example, reaching the kind of legendary And1 status without the influence and success of Williams in the NBA his first 3 years in the league.

And if you don’t believe me, watch some of the highlights below. Watch as Williams make incredible crossovers (he crosses up Bibby quite a bit when Bibby was a Grizzly; ironic considering they were traded for each other) and passes with style, swagger and ease. Witness as his expressions pump up the Sacramento fans and teammates. (Heck some of his plays made Tariq Abdul Wahad look good…no simple task mind you!) Tell me that was not fun to watch. You’re either a curmudgeon or a middle school basketball coach from Southern Indiana if you cannot find some kind of joy or entertainment in Williams’ highlights.

Without a doubt, his streetball style changed what was expected going forward from NBA point guards. Point guards were expected to be Bobby Hurley types: leaders, intense competitors and quarterbacks on the floor who were known to be composed and consistent in order to leader to efficiency on the floor and boredom in the personality area. As a Gonzaga alum, I love John Stockton. He was the prototype of what was expected from a NBA point guard: no flash, play within the offense, execute regularly to the point where it almost becomes routine. A lot of NBA point guards have followed that mold. You could argue current NBA point guards such as Chris Paul and Tony Parker have found success following the mold Stockton set before them (and Paul’s excitement comes from his arguing with the refs and flopping; when the ball is in play, he is consistent and deliberate in his play and it is beautiful to watch).

Williams on the other hand? Everything was flashy. The behind the back passes. The crossover step backs. The baseball bounce passes from beyond half court. Everything Williams did was high risk on the floor, the antithesis of what a good point guard did. A good point guard, in any coaches’ mind, is to run the offense while minimizing risk. Williams wanted to maximize the risk. He would go faster in a car to see if he could jump a gorge rather than brake and stop before it like any sane, normal driver would. This kind of quality endeared a lot of Kings and NBA fans to Williams, especially the younger generation as well as those who enjoyed the playful spirit of street-style, playground basketball. Williams was anti-expected, anti-establishment when it came to the foundation of what constituted a “good” point guard in the league and that was a “hipster” quality in him that becomes more and more appreciated as the years pass, especially as the game gears more toward his style that he helped push and pioneer when he entered the league.

Reason #2: Williams bucked the expectation and style of the “white” player in the NBA.

Stockton wasn’t just the quintessential “NBA” point guard. He was also the prototype image for every “white” player in the league. Stockton was clean-cut, wore short shorts, did ho-hum interviews and did borderline “dirty” things on the court that was usually characterized as “scrappy” or “intelligent” by the mass media. Bobby Hurley followed that mold. So did Greg Ostertag and Bryant Reeves and Christian Laettner. They were not just basketball players, but they also could have served as presidents of their chapters Young Democrats or Young Republicans in college.

Williams could have followed that mold. When he initially came into the league, he had a full-head of hair and a boyish look that made him resemble more like a Boy Band member than the point guard of a NBA squad. But, as he garnered more minutes and started to display his “streetball” style of playing that made him such a hit with NBA and Kings fans, it became obvious that Williams was going to break that “white point guard” mold that had become expected from media and general basketball fans.

By the second year, Williams ditched the Boy Band haircut and went with a shaved head and went with a buzz cut for most of his career beyond Sacramento (he also played for the Grizzlies, Magic and Heat). He started to garner more tattoos each year, as he only had a couple as a rookie but by his later years in the league his arms were covered almost as much as Chris “Bridman” Andersen’s. There was an urban swagger to Williams and unapologetic way he carried himself not just on the court, but off it as well. Williams, from West Virginia (he played high school sports famously with Randy Moss), didn’t care if the traditional media or basketball fans didn’t approve of his style. He didn’t care if people claimed he was trying to be something he wasn’t (which proved to be untrue; Belle, West Virginia is like any coal-mining West Virginia town and though it was primarily white, the town had its hardships like any major town from that tri-state area (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) suffering both socially and economically after the fallout from many mines and plants closing; Williams never claimed he was from Compton or Baltimore or somewhere likewise). And his uncompromising way of carrying himself endeared Williams to many young basketball fans and players who wanted to rebel against the status quo regardless of race or background (I know as a half-white, half-Asian american, I secretly admired Williams both on and off the court growing up).

In fact, if you don’t remember, check out this segment from ESPN’s “The Life” which profiled Williams’ first year in Memphis. He is candid, honest, blunt, and incredibly intense both on and off the court. If you have some time, watch the 20-minute clip. I find it hard to see a lot of point guards in general both then and now displaying the kind of honesty that Williams displayed in this video segment.

Reason #3: His style still influences guards today

In his day, Williams was the leader of the “rebel” cause at point. He didn’t look to make the “sure” play, but the spectacular one. He was a gunner when he wasn’t making the flashy pass, as he posted a career 49.1 percent 3-point attempt rate (the percentage of his shots that came from beyond the arc), something that wasn’t typically associated with great point guards. Point guards, when they weren’t passing the ball or making the assist, were supposed to get to the hoop on the pick and roll. And while Williams was certainly capable of that, his affinity for the 3-point shot drove him a little bit more.

For many NBA fans, Williams probably seemed to be the last of his kind, the product of the “Streetball” “And1 Mixtape” movement that died out in the late 2000’s. But since the turn of the decade, we are starting to see more and more point guards not just dominate the ball with flashy move and energy, but the 3-point shot as well. The biggest example is Stephen Curry who displays the same kind of highlight producing skills that Williams showcased in the early to mid-2000’s. Look at the highlights of Curry below and see how similar Curry and Williams’ games are similar nearly a decade later.

Is that saying Curry is the modern-day Williams? No. Curry was a whole lot more efficient with the ball and a much better shooter. (After all, Williams never won a MVP award). But, Williams broke the mold that a point guard could show flash and be successful. He displayed that a point guard could be a 3-point shooter and still be labeled and successful running the point. Maybe Stephen Curry exists without Jason Williams. But to say Williams game didn’t have an influence on guards like Curry, whether intentional or not, is dubious to think.

Final Thoughts on “White Chocolate”

Williams was a unique character both on and off the court. Even though he came off as a showboat on the court, he was incredibly reserved and easily agitated off of it. He was incredibly blunt and not just with the media, but opposing fans, as it even got him into trouble quite often (I remember his incident where he got in an intense heckling match with Golden State fans where Williams crossed the line with his comments). For a while, Williams was characterized as a “malcontent” and a “cancer”, but in reality, he just happened to by a hyper-competitive player who wanted to win, who wanted to play the game the only way he could (with panache and style) and wanted to stick close to his roots despite the misconception and sometimes, criticism (Williams was a West-Virginia proud guy; for those from Kansas City, he was like someone from Wyandotte County, which I got a lot of love for since I used to live there for a couple of years and found it hard to leave).

In short, Williams was hipster before the term was popular or even existed. The only thing Williams cared about was the game. He didn’t care about making movies. He didn’t care that he punted a lot of opportunities to market himself beyond the court more because of his style and the way he carried himself. As I said before, Williams could have probably been a media and marketing darling if he bought into the “98 Degrees” look he sort of sported his rookie year. But Williams passed off on that, because he knew that wouldn’t be who he was at the core, and “White Chocolate” can only be him at the end of the day.

There probably won’t be a hall of fame spot for Williams. And frankly, I don’t think Williams cares nor does he think about it, and that not only makes him a retro NBA Hipster, but so endearing as well. It is refreshing to see, in a day where many athletes are so self-conscious about their image and legacy, that he willingly stays out of it and doesn’t give a crap. Instead, his legacy is displayed in the current crop of budding NBA point guards endearing themselves to new waves of fans (like Curry) and his son, who is already gaining notoriety as “White Chocolate Jr.

It is exciting to think that another Williams can make it in the league. It gives hope to future generations that they can enjoy basketball like we younger fans did in the early to mid-2000’s when Williams was out there tearing up and “Hipstering” up the league.

Why Adam Morrison is the Godfather of Hipster NBA Players

Morrison was a trendsetter for Hipster basketball players today.
Morrison was a trendsetter for Hipster basketball players today.

Adam Morrison generates all kinds of different opinions depending on who you ask. The most common viewpoint on Morrison is “bust“, and you would be totally in the right to say that. After being drafted third overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats (and being personally selected by Michael Jordan), Morrison had a decent rookie season which really wasn’t as good as it seemed. Yes, he averaged 11.8 ppg and 29.8 mpg his rookie season, but the advanced stats don’t paint him in quite as positive a light. His PER was 7.9 that season (i.e. horrendous) and he was worth negative-1.5 Win Shares as well. That’s right negative-1.5! That basically means the Adam Morrison COST the Bobcats victories when he was on the floor.

It is not surprising that Morrison was so ineffective his rookie year. He struggled from beyond the arc (33.7 percent 3-PT % on a 27.3 3-PT attempt rate), and he didn’t have the strength or ballhandling to consistently get to the rim (only 11.9 of his shots came between 0-3). Add that with little-to-no post game (which he didn’t have at Gonzaga), and Morrison basically turned into a jump shooter who wasn’t good at jump shooting (and his 45 percent True Shooting Percentage proved that). And, Morrison was terrible defensively. Very, very bad. At 6-feet, 8-inches, Morrison had the potential to be a matchup nightmare for small wings or stretch-fours. The only problem? He lacked any lateral quickness whatsoever. I mean, Hedo Turkoglu looked like an all-NBA player compared to Morrison. And thus, despite advantageous height, his total, utter lack of athleticism killed him from ever being a slightly-below average defensive player (and that is putting it nicely).

But, I love Morrison. Yes, Morrison only played 83 more games and 952 more minutes in the NBA over the next three seasons (he missed his entire sophomore campaign to a knee injury, which only further killed his lack of athleticism). He did win two titles as a bench warmer with the Los Angeles Lakers, but safe to say he had as much contribution to those Lakers teams as Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times did. Case in point, his “contribution” was so ridiculed, that Jimmy Kimmel had a segment on his show featuring “Adam Morrison Highlights“.

That being said, I love Morrison for two reasons. First off, I am a Gonzaga alum, who saw the heyday of the Morrison era my freshman season. The shaggy hair, the thin mustache, the retro socks, the crying on the court after the loss to UCLA in Oakland, etc. I loved all that, and even to this day, that still remains the most enjoyable Gonzaga season I have ever followed in my lifetime as a Gonzaga Bulldogs fan and alum. This recent team was awesome. Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, Domas Sabonis (who’s slowly climbing up the ladder as my favorite Gonzaga player ever), Przemek Karnowski (with him and Sabonis forming “Low Bloc” the best nickname for a pair of post players ever)…that team was certainly the best and most talented in my lifetime. They didn’t have the charm of that 2005-2006 team. They didn’t have the big Brazilian JP Batista who literally couldn’t jump. They didn’t have Mamery Diallo who earned a technical foul before a game for dunking in warmups. They didn’t have PMAC, whose mixtape still earns legendary status amongst hardcore Gonzaga fans (please watch it…it is a DELIGHT!). They didn’t have David Pendergraft, the redhead who was completely and utter position-less and yet still somehow contributed. They didn’t have the Battle in Seattle where Morrison banked in a three pointer to beat Oklahoma State, despite having 3 defenders on him (it also happened to be one of the all-time great Gus Johnson-Bill Raftery called games, which are now a relic of ancient times; also, check out Pendegraft and Morrison yelling at each other during the timeout at the :50 mark; I have no idea if they are yelling at each other to get each other pumped up or if Morrison said something to piss Pendergraft off; one of the great mysteries of our time).

So yes, Morrison brings all kinds of nostalgic memories for me as a Gonzaga fan. However, another reason I love Morrison? Morrison was in my mind, the ultimate basketball hipster. He was the ultimate basketball hipster in college, the NBA and even abroad when he was playing for Serbia Belgrade. Whether it was his style, his antics, his game, Morrison embued “hipster” in every conceivable sense of the word in basketball circles, and to me, that is something I have grown to appreciate about his legacy, even if every other aspect (i.e. being the next “Larry Bird”) deteriorates each passing day. Here are the three major reasons why Morrison will always be the “forefather” of “Hipster” basketball players in my mind.

1. His college days were against-the-grain from what was typical of a college basketball player

Morrison stories are somewhat legendary at Gonzaga. Even before I stepped on campus as a freshman in August of 2005, everyone and their mother had a Morrison story about his freshman and sophomore years living in Desmet, the primary All-Male dorm. Let’s take a look at some of the stories.

  • The most popular one was that Morrison listened to Rage Against the Machine and considered himself a communist. Never mind that he probably was the furthest thing from a communist because he was the one that built up his image as the next Larry Bird for marketing reasons which is probably the least communist thing you could do. But Morrison, in his eyes, was a damn hammer and sickel flag-waving commie up there with Ivan Drago. His communist views (as well as his battle with type 1 Diabetes) were so widespread that they were intimately featured in a SI profile about him his freshman year, a bigger deal in retrospect than when I initially thought (I mean, to have a Gonzaga player, let alone a freshman, profiled in Sports Illustrated was really rare since Gonzaga was known more as the “chic” mid-major school rather than the budding powerhouse that they are known as today). I don’t know if Morrison still holds his communist views as passionately as a 30-year-old today as he did as an 18-year-old freshman, but his political views definitely pushed his hipster-meter to the max.
  • Morrison also was widely known for a lot of his personal upkeep quirks. If you have not watched “The Season” profiling Gonzaga basketball in 2004, drop what you’re doing and start watching Episode 1 NOW (it’s free on Youtube…as I say that, it will probably be taken off soon). One of the most underrated joys of watching the series is how the team and even Few constantly bash Morrison for his dress and his hygeine. Consistently, they bash him for the shirts, he wears, not showering, not wearing a tie, etc. It really is hilarious, especially since Mark Few just does it in the most dry, “Mark Few-esque” way possible. And Morrison really plays with it, and sorta gets annoyed with their comments, but keeps his whole routine because he likes to be noticed, even if he acts like he doesn’t care, but you can tell that he probably does (sound confusing? Yeah it is, but that is the case with most hipsters).
  • Morrison really brought back the whole retro style thing, which to be honest, was kinda cool. Yes, were the Larry Bird comparisons unfair in terms of his game? Probably. But, you had to love the “Larry Bird”-style he brought back to the college game. The striped, mid-socks, the baggy jersey, the shaggy hair, the mustache, etc. Morrison harked back to a style of the 70’s that was widely missed. Morrison reminded you of ABA, Dr. J, and a time where wearing black socks with sneakers was considered sacrilege. Did Morrison look ridiculous at times? Absolutely. His hair always bordered between aging beatnik and possible “Thomas Harris-esque” serial killer. But I liked how unabashed Morrison was in being a “throwback” without actually overtly mentioning he was going throwback while he was in college.
  • And speaking of “throwback” Morrison’s game goes totally against the grain of what is expected today. Morrison struggled to get to the rim both in his college and professional career. He wasn’t the greatest ballhandler or playmaker, and he really wasn’t that much od a dead-eye beyond the arc (yes he did shoot 42.8 percent from beyond the arc his final season at GU, but this was before they extended the line back; and only 28 percent of his shots were from beyond the arc too). Morrison in all ways was a mid-range shooter, and man was he an entertaining one. And it wasn’t like he had some great “Kemba Walker”-esque step back or some great Iso move. He just would catch take a dribble and shoot over in the mid-range, and somehow be really effective offensively. Yes, that kind of game is archaic in today’s “3 or Key” style of basketball play, but it was pretty retro, since many NBA players in the 70’s and 80’s made their bread on mastering the mid-range jumper. Thus, was Morrison probably in retrospect inefficient? Most likely. But you can appreciate the artistry and nostalgia his game summoned.

I could go into way more “Why Morrison was a hipster before hipster was a fad in college” here, but we need to move on. Some highlights I didn’t mention: his affinity for Halo 2 (even as a junior, he would come to the frosh-soph dorms and play Halo 2 on the network against all of us); living in an all-male college dorm for two years (pretty unheard of since most college star basketball players would live in an apartment with just basketball players); and chewing tobacco (yes, he dipped…Grizzly I believe was his preference).

2. Morrison seemed content, but uncaring he was a bench player in the NBA

I am sure being a bench warmer gnawed at Adam Morrison following his rookie year. I know he and Larry Brown struggled to co-exist, and he went to a loaded LA Lakers team that really had no spot or plan for him (really, they just acquired to get Kwame Brown the hell out-of-town before Kobe Bryant murdered him). But, it seemed Morrison seemed content with being a bench guy, and I think that is refreshing because if I were in his boat, I’d be pretty content too making almost 10 million dollars over two years to be courtside to two NBA championships. Seriously. Sign me up for that now.

But the one thing that was pretty “hipster” of Morrison was that he gave off an “uncaring” cool about being a bench warmer. He wasn’t pouting, but he wasn’t that Mark Madsen-Mateen Cleaves-esque bench warmer who was always the first one out, slapping butts, waving towels, etc. I mean, to be honest, those guys are annoying, and they get way too much fanfare in my opinion. We know you suck. We do not need you to make us feel less bad about your sucking because you’re the first to give high fives to the starting 5 off the bench. And we certainly don’t need to go batshit crazy when you come in just so you can throw some airballs and bricks from beyond the arc and maybe make 1 out of 10. Whether its college or pro, the lovable end of the bench guys is an overrated arc in our basketball society.

Morrison never seemed to buy into that. Sure, there were a couple of times he got fired up, but for the most part, he was simply a “Well, I’m happy to be here, but I’m bored and I wonder what I am going to do after the game” kind of player. Even in practice, it seemed like Morrison toed the line between “caring” and “not caring”, so much so that he never seemed to get called out on it, but he never really was recognized as the “Ollie from Hoosiers” type of player that coaches recognized or sung the praises of. Check out Morrison toeing that line in a fight that breaks out in practice between DJ “Tacos” Mbenga and Chris “How the Hell Do I make this Much Money” Mihm.

Starting at the :30 mark, you can see that Morrison comes in, tries to break it up as if he cares, but then five seconds later just walks off in a “screw it…this is stupid…I’m breaking up a fight between DJ Mbenga and Chris Mihm” fashion. It’s really the perfect, totally hipster ploy: show you care enough for just enough time to look good in the eyes of your teammates before you are able to do what you really want, which is walk away because the whole moment is asinine in the grand scheme of things (after all, it’s two backup centers fighting).

But, the crown hipster jewel of Morrison’s NBA campaign? His legendary NBA Live commercial which aired on draft day. Bask in its glory below:

The whole things feels like the ultimate fantasy of every middle-aged white corporate executive who wished they could play basketball, but can’t beyond their night rec-league. (“Let’s create a commercial that echoes what really matters to us in basketball! Not dunks! Not great play! Not athleticsm! But EMOTION! PURE COLLEGE BASKETBALL EMOTION PEOPLE! THE NBA DOESN’T GET THAT!”). Even Morrison seems not really in the whole thing, but is doing it a.) because he knows its part of his image and b.) because he’s probably getting paid bank to do this commercial. The whole “I appear I care, but I don’t really” persona of Adam Morrison. And you wonder why I consider him the “Godfather” of Hipster basketball players. That ad above should clinch it for you.

3. His Tenure with Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade

Some people will say that him playing in Serbia was an absolute sign of failure. Personally, I loved it. Euro ball is so underappreciated in general. I would rather watch the Euroleague championships than any high-major conference tournament nowadays. Euro ball is actually great ball to watch, and the fans are so “soccer-esque” that the environment are more batshit insane than soccer games because it is all happening indoors and seems like a firehazard to the max. If you have not seen any European games, Google it or Youtube it or something. I guarantee you that if you’re a basketball fan you’ll slowly come to love it.

And with that being said, Morrison playing in Serbia just seemed like the perfect fit. It was counter-cultural and he seemed to be truly appreciated for his throwback style and game. In the highlights below, check him stepping inside the arc for a highly inefficient long two, get in the face of opposing players who probably don’t speak English, and get all kinds of Serbian fans riled all up. All this, while looking like a guy who plays Magic the Gathering in Comic Book shops but hits the gym five times a week and is in really good shape. Truly a sight to behold and take some time to do so below

The Legacy of Morrison

Again, Morrison without a doubt was a disappointment at the NBA Level. But he needs to be appreciated. Appreciated as the true NBA Hipster pioneer that he is. He cared, but not cared about style, both his personal and playing before it became cool to do so. He was unapologetic for who he was and he left us a lot of great memories and anecdotes to associate him with. There probably will never be another player like Adam Morrison, simply because players will be too self-conscious to ever pull the stunts and stuff he did.

I will write more posts about hipster basketball players in college, the NBA, D-League and even abroad. But in all honesty, I doubt any of them will ever touch the heights of hipster-ism that Morrison set before them.

Iron and Wine, Chucks and Pour-Over Coffee: The Chronicle of a Self-Hating Hipster

“I asked you a question and I didn’t need you to reply
Is it getting heavy?
But then I realize, is it getting heavy
Well, I thought it was already as heavy as can be”

-Iron and Wine from “Waiting for Superman”

Being in your late 20’s is a weird thing. I am 28 now. I live in Kansas City, a city that I would have never though I would ever reside in back when I was in high school. In the six years since I have graduated college, I have been to many different places, experienced many different things, been through different relationships and relished my own unique joys, and walked through my share of painful valleys. Furthermore, it’s amazing too how life, culture, society has changed in the six years since I left Gonzaga and made my way toward Culver City, California. Back in 2009, the touch phone was still a luxury, twitter was just becoming relevant, and I’m sure there was still a size-able minority that still thought MySpace was a legitimate form of Social Media.

However, the biggest rise in the past six years has been the emergence of the Hipster. Yes, the coffee-drinking, flannel-wearing, Chuck taylor and rolled up jean sporting socialite that has become such a recognizable figure in our society. Much like the Beatnik to the 50’s, the hippie to the 60’s, the yuppie to the 80’s, the hipster is the “culture” of the 2010’s. Some people embrace it thinking of it as the new progressive approach to life. Others despise it as a hypocritical figure of 21st century consumerism. Whatever side of the fence you find yourself on, the “hipster” will generate debate in all kinds of communities and forms.

The “hipster” debate always strikes a chord with me though because it is tough for me to not find myself falling into that taboo demographic. After all, I am in my late 20’s, PBR and Miller High Life tend to be my beer of choice (typical for hipsters), I have found myself shopping for flannel shirts at thrift stores as of late and I have grown to adore Indie folk bands (such as Iron and Wine, Mumford and Sons and Low Roar), even going to concerts here in Kansas City, which is something very atypical of me (I have never been a concert-goer until this past year). So with this being the case, why do I to hesitate to consider myself a hipster? Why do I still feel anxious to categorize myself as someone that is characteristic of the decade that we currently live in?

The answer to that question is really two-fold, stemming from both my previous relationships here in Kansas City. The first part centers on my second-to-last ex who I moved here to Kansas City from Pine Ridge for. In all honesty, she really was a hipster. She listened to that indie folk music (though she also tended to listen to a lot of hip-hop, so she was kind of a “uber-hipster” I guess, if that does exist), she always wore beanies, she tended to be very anti-consumerism with her shopping, preferring farmer’s markets and thrift stores (which was mostly due to her best friend, who was totally on that spectrum), had tattoos, and also smoked and preferred cheap “non-popular” beer (i.e. not Bud Light). After we broke up, though I found myself enjoying a lot of the same interests, I did not want to admit it because it brought up painful memories. Memories of her, both good and bad, whenever I engaged in these “hipster” activities. And that is why I did not want to typify myself as such a person: it would put me in her category, and not only would it make me recall less-than-stellar memories, but make me feel as if I was her, which would make me feel worse, almost masochistic, since I was embodying her in some way by embracing “hipster-ism” even though the ending of that relationship had been so painful and life-altering that October through January of last year. It sounds strange of course to think like that, but it’s funny how a relationship, both current and past, can alter our mindset or approach to mainstream activities, even if it is fun or gears toward our interests.

So, I didn’t want to be hipster initially because of my first ex. But that was only the first part. The second part centered around my last ex, who was a Latina woman in her 30’s who had 3 kids. This woman was the total opposite of my first ex  (i.e. not hipster at all). She liked Latin and pop music, she tended to be more traditional when it came to buying food, clothing, etc (i.e. fell in line with the common consumer trends), and didn’t see how the “hipster” lifestyle was attractive or ideal in the slightest. It seemed like the perfect fit. Not only was I with this attractive woman, but she was the complete polar opposite of my last ex. If anything was going to drive me away from being a “hipster”, it was this woman and this relationship.

Instead, I found my tendency to gear toward the “hipster” ways pop up from time to time. When it came to BBQs, I would buy PBR or High Life, and she would make a remark about that. She constantly made note that my personality would be a better fit for one of her single “hipster” friends rather than her (this was probably a sign that this relationship was not going to work: when your girlfriend suggests that maybe you should be dating their friend rather than her because you share a like for flannel, a band or a certain brand of beer). Of course, I tried to fight against it: I liked Romeo Santos, I tended to fall too “in-line” with society to be categorized as a “hipster”, I was done with the “single” scene typical of someone my age. And for about 11 months, we were able to believe that, think that was the case, and carry our relationship as if we were really truly meant to be with each other despite our difference in personality, and specifically my own “lingering” personality characteristics being suppressed (though willingly on my end at the time).

Of course though, things did not work. That relationship ended for a multitude of reasons, but one of the subtle reasons? I was too hipster for her. I didn’t fit in with her personality, how she did things, etc. We were too different, going in two different directions, and we have not spoken since we broke up in November. Sad in many ways of course, but in the end it was a good thing. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being someone I wasn’t, just to be in that relationship, thinking that was the main way I would be happy (being in a relationship with kids and raising a family, i.e the mindset of every 20-something in the Midwest.). As the months passed though, I began to come to the realization that it was good that I wasn’t in that relationship anymore. I wasn’t happy in that relationship at the end of the day. I wasn’t myself. And when you’re not yourself, it’s hard to maintain any kind of happiness, no matter how awesome or beautiful or supportive the other person in the relationship is.

So since that endeavor ended, I have been single since. And in my own “solo” status, I have grown to understand myself a little more. And for some reasons, being “hipster” comes back to the forefront. Was being a “hipster” such a bad thing? Was I a hipster in the purest sense? No. I didn’t have tattoos and didn’t plan on getting anytime soon. I don’t wear bottleneck glasses. I don’t live on my parents’ trust fund account. But the other aspects? Yeah, I guess I can consider myself hipster in that sense. But did that make me happy? Did that make me feel comfortable with myself? Or would it be another crutch, much like that last relationship with the 30-something-year-old mother?

In April, I bought tickets to the “Middle of the Map” concert at the Uptown Theater that featured Sean Rowe, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Strand of Oaks and Iron and Wine. It was something uncharacteristic for me because I didn’t go to concerts. I didn’t see myself as a “music” guy by any means, let alone enough of one to go to a concert that featured the artists above. But I had my own “fuck it” moment and decided to do it, to do something different, even if it cost money and was out of my comfort zone. Would it be a hipster fest? Perhaps, but maybe I could determine if this was something I wanted and was comfortable with or if it was just a phase, a inkling that didn’t lead anywhere.

Sean Rowe and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear killed it, while Strand of Oaks left a lot to be desired (I can’t get into a band that’s trying to be indie folk and metal at the same time; it’s like Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine…just doesn’t fit IMO). But what really hooked me, changed things for me that night was Sam Beam (i.e. Iron and Wine), especially his rendition of “the Trapeze Swinger”. This isn’t an exact version, but the video below is very similar to what he performed at the Uptown that April night.

Amazing, right? Well, after that night, that performance, my perspective on everything just changed. Being there, listening to him, along with a completely attentive crowd of 20-something hipsters dressed in flannel, rolled up jeans, bottleneck glasses, etc, I felt completely at ease. In that eight-plus minute acoustic performance, I felt as if I had broken from chains of anxiety, doubt, and to be perfectly blunt, shit. It was as if I had fallen back into a river and while lying on my back, I was just letting the water float me down the river, away from everything, away from my first hipster ex who brought me to KC, and my last relationship, which I still pressed about since I felt guilty about not only leaving her, but her children as well. As I floated on this river with the sounds of the “Trapeze Swinger” ringing in my ears, those two figures (my exes) simply started to disappear in the horizon, as the river took me somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere where I could be truly myself and happy. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time, and certainly not at any point in my tenure in Kansas City since arriving in July of 2013.

And that is what I figured out about being “hipster”. Am I a hipster in the purest sense? It is it something I strive to be? Is it something I hold as collateral over other people to show I am better than them? Of course not. That is not me. It will never be me. However, I am hipster to some extent, and there is something freeing in that. I can say I am hipster not because I am comparing myself to someone or some time in my life, but simply because it is what describes me and brings out the best me and puts me in a good place. I wear flannel that I buy from the thrift store because I like the way it looks and it is cheap (4 bucks!). I get pour over coffee from “Oddly Correct” in Kansas City because it is delicious coffee. I wear Chuck Taylors for the first time in my life and they feel comfortable. I actually give a damn about music, especially Indie Folk. I can spend my nights listening to Iron and Wine, drinking PBR and playing Solitaire and be totally at peace. Maybe I’m not 100% hipster and maybe most hipsters who I bump into may “poo-poo” me thinking I am trying to “fit in” or “conform” in a non-genuine way. Despite what others may perceive or recognize though, in my mind, I consider myself a majority hipster and that is fine…

Because more importantly…I feel free.

“Freedom hangs like heaven over everyone
Ain’t nobody knows what the newborn holds

But his mama says he’ll walk on water
And wander back home…”

Iron and Wine from “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven”