The NBA bubble brought a semblance of normalcy this year, even as the seams of our society were damn-near torn apart due to an airborne virus and seemingly inescapable racism. We watched Dame Time put some respect on his damn name, the Clippers get meme’d to smithereens, Jimmy Butler become a legend, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell in a showdown for the ages, and most importantly, LeBron nab his fourth career NBA Finals championship. Players made history off the court, too, with a work stoppage in response to Jacob Blake’s shooting that perhaps didn’t go as far as some of us would’ve liked, but marked a historic moment in sports, nonetheless. (Professional soccer, baseball, and women’s basketball players also went on strike.)
But that’s not to say there weren’t hiccups and safety violations. Like, that one time the Clippers’ Lou Williams left the bubble to attend a funeral — but made a quick stop at Atlanta institution Magic City on the way back. We hope the chicken wing order was worth the lengthy quarantine he landed himself in upon returning to the bubble. [Eds. note: The wings indeed are that good.] Then there was Danuel House of the Houston Rockets, who broke protocol (and earned unofficial Horny Man of the Year™ honors) by hosting a, ahem, unauthorized guest in his hotel room — who turned out to be a Covid-19 tester. Both were booted from the bubble quicker than a Rasheed Wallace ejection.
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Still, the NBA bubble experiment was an overwhelming success that helped us get through a few dreadful months — and without any of our favorite ballers contracting Covid-19. Zero positive tests. It’s an example that perhaps the NFL or MLB should adopt, as both have struggled with keeping players ‘rona-free. Hell, even the White House can learn from Silver’s stellar operation, as there have been enough cases in Trump’s HQs to fill an NBA lineup. Yet another reason we need a true hooper like Obama back in the Oval Office.
— John Kennedy, senior editor
This Week In Racism
🗑 The Good News Is Alabama Voters Have a Chance to De-Racist the State Constitution. The Bad News Is …
If you live in the state known as “The Heart of Dixie,” you might understandably suspect that not everything is equality and rainbows in Alabama’s constitution, and you’d be right: school segregation, poll taxes, and laws against interracial marriage are all still in there. Good news, then, that Birmingham-area state representative Merika Coleman has introduced an amendment focused on removing “racist language” from the document; come November, voters will have a change to pass Amendment 4, thereby kicking the document back to legislators to bring up to date. But, see, here’s the thing: Alabama’s constitution has been amended 946 times over the years without changing these parts. This isn’t even the first time a specific amendment along these lines has been proposed; a similar one was rejected by voters in 2012. (And it’s not like things have gotten all that better since then!) So hats off to you, Rep. Coleman, for doing the right thing — we’ll reserve our congratulations to the people of until when they figure things out. (WTVY)
🗑 O Canada, What the Hell Is Wrong With Your Teenagers?
At just over 90,000 residents, the Ontario town of Pickering isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, but given that it’s right next door to Toronto, we’d expect that it has at least some of its neighbor’s progressive mojo. Not so much, maybe. A Black student at a local Catholic high school dedicated his senior-year yearbook photo caption to his late grandmother, only to have what was actually published read a little bit differently. What began as “RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school” became — and we can’t believe we’re actually typing this — “RIP Harambe dooga booga.” The first part of that, if you were somehow not on this planet in 2016, refers to a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo who was shot by a staff member and became immortalized in both regular and racist memes; the second part…well, we’re too angry to even explain it. Fix your fucking kids, Canada. (The Star)
🗑 That Thing We Just Said About Canada? Applies to Pennsylvania Adults, Too
If you’ve ever driven through Western Pennsylvania and gotten too far off the main highways, you might understand where the nickname “Pennsyltucky” came from. And now so does the state’s Second Lady. Over the weekend, Gisele Barreto Fetterman — who is married to Pennsylvania lieutenant-governor John Fetterman — went grocery shopping near their home outside Pittsburgh, only to be accosted by a troll who followed her through the store, saying “there’s that n****r that Fetterman married.” (Barreto Fetterman was born in Brazil.) The confrontation continued outside, where Barreto Fetterman managed to record part of it and post it to Twitter. Rather than give in to our lesser demons and talk about the other woman’s appearance and lack of teeth, we’ll try to put a positive spin on the dispiriting encounter and say: hey, good job wearing a mask for at least part of the time you were spitting virulent hate! (The Washington Post)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
🎥 The 40 Year Old Version
The musical memoir, which earned writer-director Radha Blank the US Dramatic competition direction award at the Sundance Film Festival in January, lifts straight from the auteur’s Harleminian existence as a screenwriter in limbo — veering from autobiography only when Blank prepares for her 40th birthday by becoming a rapper. A rapper. At 40. The premise might seem hokey, and Blank’s boom-bap rhymes definitely sound like a 39-year-old scribbling on her notepad while cramped on the A train (hey, remember public transportation?), but there’s a ton of soul and humor between the bars. Couple the struggling artist story with the black-and-white aesthetic, and the result feels like a certifiable rap origin story with an incredibly insightful middle-aged lens and Black femme disposition. A gem of New York ultra-nostalgia. (Netflix)
📖 This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey, On and Off the Record
Prince, like the most perceptive of our great ancestors, didn’t keep all kinds of company. So when he let someone into his purple phantasmagoria — in this case, Karlen — the result was an all-too-rare look at who The Kid really was. Karlen knew Prince better than most, having shared similar Minneapolis upbringings, and has already documented some of the most controversial moments in Prince’s legendary career, from the Warner Bros. contract dispute to the building of Paisley Park; there’s no one better to draw on years of familiarity. Prince never liked looking back, but this poetic retrospective on his beautiful life couldn’t have come at a better time. (St. Martin’s Press)
🎧 Kamasi Washington, Terrance Martin, Robert Glasper, and 9th Wonder, Dinner Party: Dessert
In July, the freethinking quartet dropped Dinner Party, an EP that hit the jazz charts but was as genre-breaking as the lineup suggests. The brand-new followup’s got more of the same, and even with a heavier hip-hop bent — from Buddy and Cordae verses to Snoop Dogg doing his best Quiet Storm impression — you’ve still got a record for just about any Covid-safe lounge function. With all the big names, it’s a wonder this project never once sounds like four many cooks in the kitchen. But with Phoelix’s nu-age R&B harmonies backboning the record from top to bottom, this apertif is balm for personal and group dosage (Spotify)
LEVEL Read of the Week
The Newest Get-Out-the-Vote Tactic Is a PSA Starring Exotic Dancers
You probably noticed the video when it came across your feed in September: a septet of Atlanta-area dancers mixing pole tricks with politics, including some surprisingly persuasive arguments to get your ass to the polls. “I’m just a 40-something-year-old mom who wanted to figure out how to make the world better for her kids,” says Angela Barnes, the Black woman who directed the minute-long clip. And it might just be making a difference among Georgia’s elusive Black male voters. Read the story.
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