How last season ended... will we see a repeat for this season?
If you're reading this right now, you unfortunately juuuust missed out on all of the red-carpet festivities. BUT you are in luck - you are just in time for the main attraction! That's right, the first ever Gowhere Hip Hop Awards for the 2012-13 NBA Season.
What does this mean exactly? It means I wrote 1700 words making up fake awards and serious predictions that relate hip hop to NBA players and teams as I immersed myself in NBA previews, podcasts, fantasy drafts (sorry, no Gowhere Hip Hop league this year), columns, and Derrick Rose videos because I miss him.
So... the envelope please...
The "Kendrick Lamar Award" for this season's breakout All-Star goes to...
See what I'm doing here? Kendrick Lamar's debut album, good kid, m.a.a.d. city has catapaulted him to instant All-Star status in hip hop. I mean, 242K first week? In this declining climate? Peers have long been paying attention, but now so are fans. There's nowhere to go but up for K. Dot like you can say for second-year guard K. Irving. Young Kyrie has already helped Cleveland fans move on from LeBron and he is prime for his first all-star selection this February after an impressive rookie campaign last year. I co-sign what many pundits are previewing this October - Kyrie Irving is about to make the "leap" as a top 15 player in the NBA. My reasoning goes beyond the silk shooting, the athletic drives to the lane, and the defensive potential Irving possesses. Have you seen him in the clutch? Kid's got it. If Cleveland doesn't mess up the core around its star this time around, we'll eventually see Irving proving it every May.
Kyrie Irving or... Kendrick Lamar?!
The "Gangnam Style Award" for the team who will achieve the most unexpected success goes to...
the Brooklyn Nets
Nine months ago, who would have thought this guy would have been the most-talked about new music "star" on the planet? No complaints here, "Gangnam Style" is doubles as the most hilarious touchdown celebration fad this NFL season and the most hilarious music fad this year in music. I expect high success for the Brooklyn Nets, but not quite in the same fashion. Well, fashion-wise, yes. The Jay-Z inspired black and white unis are getting the same attention as PSY's blue tux, but I expect Brooklyn's new basketball team to garner similar chatter for their on-court play. The expectations are high, but I think they'll excel in the regular season as a 50 win team and perhaps the 3 seed in the East. The Nets should ride the new wave of home games in the burrough, guards' Joe Johnson, MarShon Brooks, and CJ Watson's sharpshooting, and Deron Williams' overall excellence to be the league's most improved team from last season. I can't see their defense, or lackthereof, propelling the Nets past the second round but a taste of the playoffs to that extent should only carry over Brooklyn's excitement into years to come.
The "Trapped In The Closet Comeback Player of the Year" Award goes to...
C'mon, it's the least we can do for R. Kelly, who graced us with a new episode of Trapped In The Closet this month - the first one since 2007 that was 5 long years overdue. The winner of this prestigous (fake) award is Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green. The versatile Georgetown alum is bouncing back from a serious, life-threatening heart condition that required him to miss all of last season and endure a scary 5 hour, 26 minute heart surgery this past January. He is already showing his top 5 pick potential once again after a great pre-season and looks ready to contribute to the re-tooled Celtics in a big way this season. If Boston is playing in the Finals this June, look at Green to be one of the answers why, as his D on LeBron may prove to be as valuable as a Paul Pierce elbow J.
Because this is the best way to take a break, ever.
The "Food & Liquor II Artwork Award" for the team that looks simple on the outside but is really good on the inside goes to...
Props to the three people who understood this analogy. For those who don't, one click here should remind you of Lupe Fiasco's simple black artwork for his new album, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album - an album you should have in your collection by now. On the inside, Food & Liquor II is really good... and so are the Utah Jazz. I expect a big year from Utah's underrated, not-so-flashy frontcourt consisting of all-star Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. Jefferson and Millsap personify "not-so-flashy" to the tee, but they do get the job done. Both workhorses in the post and on the glass. Then you got top 3 picks from the 2009 and 2011 Drafts respectively: Favors and Kanter, and they're both prime to breakout this year. Favors' athleticism is off the charts and Kanter has turned extra weight into muscle this off-season to be even more of a physical beast down low this season. I wouldn't be surprised if these young guns push the Jazz front-office to trade one of their established bigs for some swingman help later on in the season for a Jazz playoff run that I can see reaching as high as the 2nd round and the #4 seed.
To bring the analogy full circle, think of Jefferson as "Put 'Em Up" (the album's best and grimiest song), Millsap as "Around My Way" (an old-school forward for an old-school sampled gem), Favors as "Unforgiveable Youth" (the first song of the album that I would share to a first-time listener; the potential that they understand the story on the first listen is as great as Favors' all-star potential), and Kanter as "Brave Heart" (a physical specimen who personfies the album's best pump-up track). In fact, the album as a whole is a great representation of the Utah Jazz. It's a really good album from beginning to end, but not quite the body of work for NBA Championship status like Food & Liquor I and The Cool. And lastly, for some reason I can see Gordon Hayward singing "Battle Scars".
"Unforgiveable Youth", "Put 'Em Up", & "Around My Way"
The "Kids These Days Award" for the rookies whose names everyone will know by the end of the year goes to...
Damian Lillard & Jonas Valanciunas
OK, maybe not Jonas Valanciunas, but that will only be because of his hard-to-pronounce last name and not for a shortage of basketball skill. The Toronto Raptors center was the 5th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft as the 20-year-old Lithuanian played one more season overseas last year before landing in Canada for his rookie season this year. There is a lot of buzz from the NBA gurus that his game is ready to make an impact today. In brief: Valanciunas can shoot, rebound, block shots, and as Real Madrid teammate Martynas Pocius says: "He just loves to dunk. Everything around the rim, he just tries to tear the rim down." For further testimonal, watch this throw-down during his impressive pre-season. Looks like there's a new high-flyer from up north that we should all get familiar with.
So who is Damien Lillard you may ask? The 6th pick of this year's draft is slated to be the Portland Trail Blazers starting point guard and after scouring YouTube for many highlights of the Weber State alum (yup, Weber State), I'd describe his game as an all-around point guard who can drive, dish, and shoot the trey (he can really light it up). With his body and athleticism, he even has some D. Rose flashes - one of his idols that he patterns his game after, in fact. For more evidence on why I think this kid will be good, check out the latest installment of his webisode series that I gushed over last week. And don't be surprised if you see him opposite Steve Nash in the first round of the playoffs this April.
And oh yeah, you get a bonus prediction out of this award. The namesake for the award will be a household name this time next year as Chicago collective Kids These Days has all of the elements to make it big. First off, good music. Point, blank, period. And not only good music, but their own original lane. I've never quite heard a hybrid of hip hop, jazz, and alternative executed like this. The casual fan of music will draw to the group's loveable appeal and various personalities, while Vic Mensa's swagger and skill will draw in hip hop heads like yourselves. I'm certainly inspired by their new Traphouse Rock album that was made available for download earlier today... but it's a project that I already know will continue to bounce loudly off the GWHQ walls for the rest of the year and beyond.
The "G.O.O.D. Music vs. YMCMB vs. MMG Award" for the three teams who have the best chance to win the NBA Title goes to...
Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics.
Sorry, Oklahoma City Thunder. You're the TDE for this award; just on the outside looking in, but on the power of their star Kendrick Lamar/Kevin Durant, you still got a shot. But just think if TDE traded away Schoolboy Q?!
My top three contenders: the Miami Heat, the prime favorite to repeat; the Los Angeles Lakers, the prime favorite to dethrone the Heat or self-combust in a first-round upset; and the Boston Celtics, the all-star veterans, re-tooled with a mix of athleticism, youth, and experience. So who's who in this analogy? Well, I'll let you be the judge. At the end of the day, it's the Heat, the Lakers, the Celtics, the Thunder, the Spurs, (the D. Rose comeback Bulls? Wishful thinking, I know). I think we're destined for a Heat/Lakers final that could go either way, but LeBron getting chip #2 and cementing his legacy over Kobe.
But as any of the biggest crews in hip hop can be argued as the best, any of these teams can be argued as the champions in June. Let's just enjoy everything for what it is and not get caught up in the rankings - good music, good basketball, and perhaps the NBA's most compelling season yet.
June, 2013: Kobe #6 or LeBron #2?
(Jordan still #1... sorry, I couldn't resist.)
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"I see my beauty in You."