As voters and fans everywhere debate ad infinitum and wring their hands about who should receive the NBA’s most coveted award, that of Most Valuable Player (MVP), here at Nil Stats I’d like to bestow a (dubious) distinction of my own: the Most Petty Player (MPP) Award.
This award goes out, of course, to the pettiest player in the league. But you can’t judge petty by it’s cover. There are levels to this.
The best petty is that which lingers, and which is still relevant (and deliciously shady) weeks, years, and even eons from when the salvo was first fired. It makes you stop in your tracks with an Ice Cube/Chris Tucker worthy “DAAAAAAAAAAAYUM!”
It decimates your opponent; it is the verbal or visual equivalent of a hip-hop mic drop. It leaves crowds swooning in the wake of your mental brilliance.
Good petty isn’t necessarily obvious. Sometimes, it sneaks up on you. The best type of this petty has you laughing like, “Ha ha ha ha…wait. What?!” It’s like insulting someone with $2.00 SAT words and they laugh, not knowing they’ve been insulted. Smart people petty is some of the best petty out there.
Still, it’s hard to get excited when you are reserving your prime petty for those who don’t have your supreme petty skills or when you go against a petty master when you’re just a novice. Never bring a butter knife to a gunfight, Grasshopper.
However… you get bonus points if your petty requires CIA-level attempts at decryption by the masses. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Good petty is also consistent. Some of my nominees have been streaky; others had one good shot across the bow (but sadly didn’t continue); and some have maintained their petty all season. Just like making free throws and mid-range jumpers, you have to practice and keep practicing to get better. The same goes for petty.
There have been various petty attempts throughout the 2016-17 season. Some missed their mark completely; some were okay, but needed improvement; and some just required a roomful of lamps to combat the shade thrown.
Based on the above criteria, here are my nominees for the 2016-17 MPP (Most Petty Player) Award.
Seth Curry (Dallas Mavericks)
Y’all gon’ stop calling Seth “the other Curry.” His pro career blossomed once he left the Purgatory that is the Sacramento Kings, and he proved that Dell Curry Sr.’s sharpshooting blood is prominent in his veins, too. He helped the Mavericks not only remain relevant till the very end of the season, but also hold onto to a slim hope of making the playoffs (it didn’t happen, alas, but next year!).
On top of his ball handles and shooting skills, Curry has more evolved petty chops than his more lauded brother, Steph. To wit: after former Kings teammate Rajon Rondo (once again) attacked the team for not being on his level in basketball and in life, Curry wasn’t having it and clapped back.
Smart people petty FTW. Unfortunately, this was the only example displayed by Curry all season, which is why he got an Honorable Mention.
Get your petty weight up, S. Dot; I need more Snarky Seth (preferably proliferated on social media; maybe holler at your sister-in-law for tips?) in the upcoming season.
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
James likes to complain. About everything. The only worse complainer is his Banana Boat homie, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers. I hope both of them go in together on a wine and cheese shop someday; you know it will be well-stocked.
[see what I did there? The petty in me honors the petty in you.]
James also believes his own hype. Granted, when you are arguably the best basketball player in the world and have been anointed as such before puberty took a good hold, it’s hard not to (and the ball don’t lie, word to Rasheed Wallace). Still, for all of his dazzle on the hardwood, his petty is rather mediocre. It doesn’t cause nightmares, and is usually laced with self-deprecating, “Why me?” angst.
An example is his response to (yet another) overly physical play by Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors is rather tepid, given how Green tried to take him out.
Amusing, but “meh” on the petty scale. Perhaps he should take a master class from his other homie, Dwyane Wade.
The following are solid candidates for Most Petty Player of the year, based on the aforementioned criteria: petty impact, petty consistency, and petty legacy.
Rajon Rondo (Chicago Bulls…for now)
Rondo was, is, and always will be a special snowflake. He has talent mixed with a near-genius IQ and a low sufferance for fools, which doesn’t always translate well (see: his journeyman tour around the NBA). This petty shot at those who scoffed at his game skills was a bit heavy-handed and self-serving (but hey, that’s Rondo); it was petty to go there about the Sacramento Kings (who are on another level of petty, but I may revisit team petty at another time), which were/are weak targets.
Dwyane Wade (Chicago Bulls…for now)
As we have seen over the years, Rondo stays beefing with his teammates, past and present. When he went from the Kings to the Bulls, there was an expectation of friction with Wade and Rondo–both of whom love to have the ball in their hands–teaming up with incumbent Jimmy Butler (who also loves the ball). The “Three Alphas” experiment worked well…until it didn’t. When the Wade/Butler bromance resulted in a call-out of the entire team’s playing style after a brutal loss, Rondo wasn’t pleased and let the world know (as only he could). Wade’s initial response:
This is delicious petty. No extra words, just let the picture speak for you. Maximum effect with minimal effort. Bonus points for employing one of Michelle Obama’s most epic side-eyes. We have all been Mrs. Obama at one point.
I love Wade for this. This is a master’s degree in petty. Take notes, LeBron.
However: for the entire season, there has one Master of Pettiness in the ranks of the NBA. He is a walking petty paradox: subtle yet loud, obvious yet obscure. He is the root of hours of Instagram parsing and Twitter deductions. Anything he does or says is practically guaranteed to go viral, simply by virtue of how he says or does something.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2016-17 Most Petty Player Award goes to…
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
COME THROUGH, DARTH WESTBROOK !
Westbrook: Number “0” in your programs, number one in the hearts of the snarky.
I mean, where do we begin? The scope and breadth of his petty portfolio is breathtaking.
We did not expect Westbrook to take the news of Kevin Durant’s defection to the Golden State
Gentrifiers Warriors lightly, but no one expected him to break bad like he did. And he did it in such a subtle fashion (off the court, that is). His petty knew no bounds, and we were here for all of it. His denial of said petty was even better.
Word on the curb was that the term “cupcake” was frequently used by the Thunder to describe players that were not performing up to standard. While Westbrook would neither confirm nor deny, this is still an epic clapback in the immediate aftermath of The Decision 3.0.
Westbrook channeled some of his sotto voce shade through one of his passions: fashion.
Of course, Westbrook publicly denied that the vest was a dig at Durant. Of course. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*
Then there was the Willie Beaman jersey:
Which, of course, reminded me of this NSFW gem from the movie, but I digress:
The decoding attempts at his choice of outfit was almost immediate. Some of the NBA’s prominent voices weighed in on the significance and message behind the basketball version of Jerseygate.
Westbrook’s consistency of petty throughout the season, while averaging a triple-double and willing the Thunder to the playoffs (which many expected them to miss without Durant), is nothing short of remarkable. The potshots that might or might not be potshots kept NBA Twitter ablaze with theories, hypotheses, and commentary. Instagram was blessed with Westbrook’s attempt to work through his abandonment issues. He even got paid for letting the pain out.
Russ, you’re the real MPP. Never change.
Thanks for stopping by.