O.J. Mayo received an at-least-two-year ban from the NBA today, for repeat violations of the league’s anti-drug program. This is not exactly important news for the NBA, because O.J. Mayo is busted and terrible and probably was on a plane to China when the decision was made anyway. However, it’s an occasion to remember the time back in 2007 when Bill Simmons, then at ESPN, wrote a lot of really amazingly dogwhistly shit about O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love, then in high school.
The blog post, titled “Down with the O.J. Mayo Era,” is pegged to the pair’s appearance in the McDonald’s All-American Game. In it, Simmons labors to draw some, uh, suuuper duuuper dogwhistly-as-hell contrasts between Mayo, “who has a legitimate chance to replace Vince Carter as my least favorite NBA star of all-time” (Side note: Who the fuck hates Vince Carter????), and Love, Simmons’s “new favorite incoming recruit.” It’s really something! I encourage you to read it. Here are some of my favorite passages.
On the possibility of a rivalry between the two (emphasis added):
The bigger picture: With Mayo joining a loaded USC team and Love playing 20 minutes away for a Final Four team, that’s looming as a dynamite rivalry and the most intriguing media subplot for the 2007-08 season. After all, Love represents everything good about basketball (unselfishness, teamwork, professionalism) and Mayo represents everything we’ve come to despise (showboating, selfishness, over-hype).
Here’s the very next part!
If Love were black, this would be a much easier topic to discuss. But he’s white. So even though there’s a natural inclination to embrace Love’s game and disparage Mayo’s game—you know, assuming you give a crap about basketball and care about where it’s headed as a sport—there’s also a natural inclination to hold back because nobody wants to sound like the white media guy supporting the Great White Hope over the Black Superstar Du Jour.
On their relative appeal to various, uh, demographics:
Like it or not, Mayo’s style of game resonates with a certain demographic, with his final high school dunk symbolizing the divide between traditional fans and the budding generation that was weaned on Slam Magazine and me-first “superstars” like Stephon Marbury and Vince Carter (neither of whom has played on a 50-win NBA team, by the way). Head over to YouTube and you’ll find an unedited clip of the dunk that makes Mayo look like an attention-seeking punk, as well as a heavily edited clip of the same dunk that lionizes it. Is it alarming that a 19-year-old kid throwing himself a halfcourt alley-oop in the final minute of a 40-point win, dunking it, tossing the ball into the stands and getting thrown out of his final high school game, then soaking in a standing ovation could be considered a beautiful moment by some people? Probably not. That’s just our culture now. Rappers sing songs with their own names as the chorus. Wannabe celebrities intentionally leak sex tapes to make themselves famous. Rich teenagers make fools of themselves on “My Super Sweet 16" and don’t even get that they’re the joke.
(It was nice of him to throw in veiled but instantly recognizable references to notable nonblack attention-seekers Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, there. Of course they’re both women, but, uh, at least they’re not the blacks!)
But the sport of basketball is headed for a crossroads of sorts, personified by the fact that Kobe Bryant’s recent streak of 50-point games received far more national attention than the incredible Suns-Mavs game two weeks ago.
Hey, who were the two stars involved in that Suns-Mavs game? Notable whites Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
Nobody wants to be the next Steve Nash; everyone wants to be the next LeBron James, the next Gilbert Arenas, the next Vince Carter.
Everyone wants to be notable me-first glory-hog LeBron James, quite possibly the best passer and all-around player in NBA history.
Again, it’s not a black/white thing as much as a philosophical thing
Oh for sure man.
Which brings me back to that McDonald’s game. When Mayo bricked the game-winning 3-pointer with five seconds left and soaked in those scattered boos and a few “ov-er-ra-ted” chants, do you think he was more upset that his team lost, or that he would have been the hero if he made the 3? Call me crazy, but I’m going with the latter. Meanwhile, Kevin Love’s team came out on top. He finished with 13 points and six rebounds and jump-started at least five-six fast breaks that directly led to layups or dunks. Looking at the stat sheet, you’d never guess that he was one of the key guys in the game. But he was. And that’s why I’m looking forward to the Kevin Love Era and preparing myself to hate everything about the O.J. Mayo Era.
It’s not a white thing or a black thing ... it’s a basketball thing.
Just a coincidence then!