What the hell am I even reading right now?
Authenticity is a notoriously difficult thing to define. While just about every philosopher and thinker has put forth their own concept of authenticity, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was particularly interested in this idea and his ideas are those I find to be amongst the most revealing on this subject.
This is from a section headed “The bad faith of LeBron James,” in a batshit article under the headline “The Warriors—a truly authentic team” on Golden State of Mind, a Warriors site in the SB Nation network of team blogs. I don’t know whether to suggest reading it, for the woozy thrill of peering into the depths of basketblogging insanity, or to suggest avoiding it, so that you will not turn out like a protagonist at the end of a Lovecraft tale. The author’s take, here, is that the Warriors are a uniquely authentic group of guys, to their eternal credit, because they are revealing and vulnerable on social media, whereas LeBron James is phony and therefore unlikeable because he did this, which is apparently neither revealing nor vulnerable:
God forgive me, I am going to share a sample of this nightmare:
In many ways, the Warriors are a tough team to define— they have young players but also many veterans; they shoot a ton of three-pointers, but have an excellent mid-range and rim-attacking game; they’re one of the best offenses in league history but also one of its great defensive teams. Yet what binds this team together is this authenticity, that they are players who are true to themselves and who they are, both as players and people.
Kevin Durant makes this quality apparent in his Twitter bio, which reads as the following: “IM ME, I DO ME, AND I CHILL.”
Ah yes, the Twitter bio, known the world over as a reliable source of true information of biographical significance.
Listen. When teams and athletes are good, it is expected that their fans and a certain number of neutral observers will construct a mythology around them. Generally this is part of an effort to order things in some comprehensible way, to observe a pattern in the universe that can enrich the experience of existing inside of it. I don’t know why that pattern so often isn’t, like, these guys are taller and faster and more skilled than those guys, but, whatever. If you want it to be grit or hustle or chemistry or whatever, you are not so unlike all the generations of sports fans before you, who attached arbitrary moral significance to athletic success. Fine. Dumb, but fine.
This is not that.
Thinking back to Sartre’s definition of bad faith and the example of the waiter “playing” at the idea of being a waiter, one can see that Durant is not like this and thus one acting in “good faith” or acting freely in accordance with what matters to him. He is just going out there and playing basketball. The other things that have come in his life—monetary success, business ventures—are all the byproduct of him being authentically and wholly a basketball player.
Yes, it is truly impressive how Kevin Durant, who once insisted upon being referred to as The Servant, is unlike the inauthentic waiter in Sartre’s examination of bad faith. I swear I want to die right now.
And then there’s this, which manages to zoom right past that Steph Curry is very certainly the very best three-point shooter literally in the history of his sport, and has won the MVP twice and two championships:
Authenticity is one of the big things that has made Stephen Curry such a popular and beloved player in the NBA.
This does not fall under normal obnoxious fan behavior. This is extending the normal flimsy and temporary ordering of this insignificant part of the universe outward, to assign hilariously awkward make-believe moral judgments to the character of the participants. Don’t fucking do that! The Warriors are better shooters and better passers and better ball-handlers and better defenders than the other teams, and they win a lot of games because of that, and they enjoy winning those games, and are paid handsomely for the winning, and so they are happy. Happy faces are described as more trustworthy. There’s your goddamn authenticity. You like the Warriors and they are happy.
And this sappy horse-shit is especially galling in the case of the Warriors, who’ve already seen the local NBC Sports Bay Area affiliate rebranded “NBCAuthentic.” This authenticity shit is a fucking brand identity, a marketing angle. By definition you should be suspicious of traits advanced in brand marketing, not reordering your understanding of Kevin fucking Durant, the guy who was literally caught using a burner Twitter account to defend his reputation.
I think I am decided: you should read it, if only to fully understand how the natural adoring behavior of fans of winning teams curdles into goopy, overblown excess, and inevitably makes all other fans hate your guts. Read it and weep.