Perhaps because it follows so closely on the heels of the NBA Finals, free agency is woven into the fabric of professional basketball moreso than any other major American sport. Every July 1st, the floodgates open and a  flurry of rumors and press conferences  free us from our baseball-only purgatory. And not since Lebron James decided to take his talents to South Beach has an offseason been so eagerly anticipated as it has this year,  with Kevin Durant hitting the open market for the first time ever. Signing a role player like Matthew Dellavedova is great and all, but NBA titles aren’t won and lost based on which team is able to assemble the scrappiest group of nut-punchers.

As a former MVP and a four time scoring champion, adding Durant in free agency could alter the fate of a franchise for years to come. Naturally, the lengths that teams with sufficient salary cap space went to woo him reflected the momentous  opportunity: The Clippers’ meeting with Durant moved owner Steve Ballmer to tears. The Celtics brought in legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to sell KD on the idea of building something special in Boston. Jay-Z begged Durant to take a meeting with the Brooklyn Nets and was rebuffed, making it the second most embarrassing public moment for Jay this year.

Perhaps it was fate that Durant declared his independence from the Oklahoma City Thunder on the 4th of July. In a Players’ Tribune blog post,  Kevin “The Servant” Durant announced his plan to sign with the Golden State Warriors, the team that knocked him out of the Western Conference Finals in dramatic come-from-behind fashion just five weeks earlier. It’s an unprecedented move that in some ways makes Lebron’s 2010 defection from Cleveland to Miami seem like a “conscious uncoupling” by comparison.

Lost within all of the terrible Durant takes is an intriguing subplot that merits a closer look. One with implications in not only the realm of the NBA, but also hip hop, theology, and constitutional law. I’m talking, of course, about the fact that Berkley rapper and noted Warriors fan Lil B the Based God ended his longstanding feud with Kevin Durant. Though he has more swag and bitches than you, Lil B does not have the ability to handle the cognitive dissonance that would come along with cursing his favorite team.

How did we get here? It all started back in May of 2011. Right after the Thunder were eliminated from the Western Conference Finals by the Mavericks, Lil B declared that Durant would never win an NBA title because he called the prolific Bay Area rapper “whack”1an opinion likely shared by a decent percentage of people who’ve heard Lil B, though certainly not the author of this piece. Each time the Thunder got bounced from the playoffs in the five seasons that followed, the legend of #TheBasedGodsCurse grew and grew to the point that it took on a life of its own. ESPN eventually brought the Based God on air to discuss his curse multiple times, treating him as a hyphy Nostradamus.  He was already a legend in his own right for presaging the flows and aesthetics of some of today’s most notable hip hop personalities (receiving unsolicited praise from heavyweights like Kendrick Lamar in the process). But Lil B’s curse on Kevin Durant brought him to the attention of every Macklemore, G-Eazy and Lil Dicky fan that pays for a cable subscription to pretty much just watch Sportscenter on a loop.

Lil B: Capable of altering the course of NBA history and loudly asserting that the traditional performance of gender is a social construct AT THE SAME DAMN TIME

Lil B: Capable of altering the course of NBA history and loudly asserting that the traditional performance of gender is a social construct AT THE SAME DAMN TIME

A hater could argue that #TheBasedGodsCurse was just a matter of dumb luck that worked out in spite of any conscious effort on Lil B’s part, an idea that could then also be applied to the rest of his career. Believing that life is just a series of disconnected cosmic accidents is great if you don’t like to stay up all night in a cold sweat dissecting every bad decision you’ve ever made, but it’s not all that fun in this case. Instead, I’m going to analyze what it means that the most notorious cross-disciplinary beef has been laid to rest.

Let’s fire up the best diss track of our generation2non-Joe Budden going after Drake category one last time and get to it.


HOW THIS AFFECTS KEVIN DURANT

For Durant, the removal of the curse makes the upcoming season an all-or-nothing campaign. While Durant himself would never admit it, Lil B’s curse provided cover every spring when he failed to bring an NBA title to The Team Formerly Known as The Seattle Supersonics. It was a ready-made narrative that stripped @KDTrey5 of his agency in the situation and instead placed it in the hands of a rapper who once said “36 bitches and they call me Don Imus.” Now that the impassible obstacle has been cleared from his path (and he’s joined a team that went an NBA record 73-9 without him last year), Kevin Durant must win his first NBA title this year or be forever crushed under the yoke of his own failure.

HOW THIS AFFECTS THE WARRIORS

There was an interesting profile of Warriors owner Joe Lacob that ran in the New York Times Magazine this spring as his team was closing in on a record 73 regular season wins. The piece made it plain that the Warriors were clearly built on the foundational principles of your average world-saving, paradigm-shifting Silicon Valley startup, both on and off the court. Based on how the organization is described, it’s surprising that Kevin Durant isn’t being paid in a lifetime supply of Soylent:

Spending time in the Warriors’ front office often felt like hanging out at a software company. Soon after buying the team, Lacob supervised the removal of the walls inside its headquarters, which sit atop a parking garage in downtown Oakland. The various departments now share the same open-plan room; when I visited, I kept expecting to see a kegerator or some hoverboards. “You walk through there now, and it’s young, and there’s excitement… It’s Google in the N.B.A.”

Not only that, but Lacob also has the arrogance that is characteristic of most leaders of hot startups, believing that the Warriors are “probably light-years ahead of probably every other team in terms of structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things.” Obviously, the Dubs are totally crushing the crowdsourced put-a-ball-through-a-hoop space, you guys. Staffers probably describe the NBA as “like Uber, but with a highly athletic workforce that gets paid a living wage.”

In terms of their on the court product, Golden State’s “lean startup” model of basketball translates to a small, agile lineup that prefers high percentage three pointers over working the ball inside for close-range baskets. Teaming up a versatile shooter and slasher like Kevin Durant with “MVP/Unicorn” Steph Curry and “3 point Guru/Maven/Ninja/Jedi” Klay Thompson gives the Warriors all of the “funding” they need in order to successfully enact their vision. That’s not to mention the fact that buying out the newly-uncursed former captain of their biggest western conference rival automatically makes the Warriors’ path back to the NBA finals that much easier.

Luckily, the NBA has a system for declaring clear winners and losers that’s more efficient than the unfettered free market worshipped by Lacob and his cronies. With an otherworldly level of small ball talent and without the externality of Lil B’s curse to as an excuse, the Warriors will only have themselves to blame if they fail to win an NBA championship. Therefore, defeat would serve as an indictment of the fetish for disruption-as-business-plan that powers every startup owned by the various members of “The Bridge Club” that treat Warriors home games as a glorified tech meetup.  I’m rooting against the Warriors this year just so Lacob gets butthurt and sells the team to Erlich Bachman (founder of Aviato).

HOW THIS AFFECTS OTHER NBA PLAYERS

What does the end of the curse mean for the rest of the league? The answer is obvious: that pent-up bad voodoo has to go somewhere.  Durant’s former teammate James Harden, who stole Lil B’s cooking dance without giving its creator proper credit, would be an obvious target if he wasn’t already forgiven for his sins. So will the Based God choose another victim? Will Russell Westbrook magically transform into a sandwich and lose the ability to put up triple doubles and recklessly gamble on defensive possessions? Will Rajon Rondo and the Bulls’ new “big three” be cursed because he looks like a homophobic turtle? Will Nick Young be forced to suffer because he had to pretend Iggy Azalea was talented and doesn’t have the good sense to keep Gilbert Arenas out of his house? Only time will tell.


THE BROADER IMPLICATIONS OF THE CURSE’S END ON LIL B AND THE DOCTRINE OF BASED WISDOM: MY PERSONAL JOURNEY

As a longtime disciple of Lil B3Fittingly enough, the idea of him “clicked” for me right around the time the curse was issued, whether this is a coincidence or something else is unknown the removal of the curse upended everything I assumed I understood about the Based God.  Am I now to doubt that he looks like Sam Cassell, Tim McGraw, Willy Wonka and Jesus all at the same time? Are immutable laws of nature like “if you see bees, you must be near water?” no longer valid? Is eating ass not cool anymore?

Getting through this challenging period involved a great deal of introspection. But as I watched a #rare video of Lil B interacting with a bug, I came to remember a great deal about what it means to be unironically, unapologetically Based. Much like a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it’s about casting off the parts of your identity that are no longer useful or positive so that your spirit may soar. It’s about saying “You can hit me, but I won’t hit you back”. It’s about putting out positive energy into the universe and seeing what it can do for you and everyone around you.

It’s also about “cooking” and getting your dick sucked in the sky like a martian, because Lil B contains vast multitudes.

While the curse’s sustained effects made Lil B something of a minor celebrity, he clearly realized that exercising power over Durant in the vain pursuit of fame and fortune wasn’t a sign of strength, but rather one of weakness. It may all seem like a joke, but the willingness to evolve towards a more enlightened way of thinking in full public view should serve as a guiding example to all of us. That goes to everyone and everything from your racist aunt sharing “Blue Lives Matter” memes, to the 2nd ammendment, to people like me who refuse to play Pokemon Go purely out of spite. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I can change, and Lil B can change, everybody can change.

Most importantly, this is the highest-profile instance of Lil B using his platform to promote that positive agenda he’s been about since day one. While songs like “Fuck KD” and “Wonton Soup” have turned Based God into a meme, there are plenty of tracks in his back catalogue that more seriously tackle social issues or offer encouragement to those who need it most4fittingly, those tracks tend to showcase a higher degree of lyrical skill and a better beat selection. That’s not to mention the fact that he’s been invited to share his wisdom and motivational messages at some of the most prestigious universities all across the country and been an outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders. Though the end of the curse means the spotlight on Lil B might dim, shedding the last vestige of his negativity in such a public way  just might help even the most despondent 76ers fans start to live more positively.


It’s disappointing that we’ll never  see the game of 21 between Durant and aspiring d-league player Lil B that was once considered the only way to end the curse. But there is much to admire in his act of forgiveness, and some interesting subplots to follow once the NBA season kicks off in October.  We might look back on this moment next June as Kevin Durant hoists his first Larry O’Brien trophy skyward and realize that the curse was just Lil B’s way of fortifying Durant’s resolve before he joined the hometown team. After all, the Based God works in mysterious ways.

References   [ + ]

1. an opinion likely shared by a decent percentage of people who’ve heard Lil B, though certainly not the author of this piece
2. non-Joe Budden going after Drake category
3. Fittingly enough, the idea of him “clicked” for me right around the time the curse was issued, whether this is a coincidence or something else is unknown
4. fittingly, those tracks tend to showcase a higher degree of lyrical skill and a better beat selection