Five years doesn’t seem like a long time ago, but much of what we know now ceased to exist in 2009. Blue Ivy was nothing more than a weird combination of a color and a plant. Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s paths had yet to intersect. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were in high school, while Russell Wilson was an honorable mention All-ACC performer at North Carolina State. The Obamas were still learning their way around the White House. Terio was an infant. Instagram hadn’t been created. And Justin Bieber was merely a YouTube sensation.
Pop culture mutates by the minute in today’s world and this weekend signals one of the more storied, controversial and publicized events on the calendar – All Star Weekend. Billed historically with the boom of social media, ASW is a place where celebrities go to be groupies to other celebrities, actual groupies flock by droves to pack 10 deep in one hotel room with the prayer of being knocked up by a baller while the rest of us appreciate the entertainment.
The 2009 installment was especially noteworthy in its own right. In fact, ASW ’09 was defined by more than just basketball. The 72-hour extravaganza open doors and closed doors. Follow along…
Correction: The headline originally read Kanye, where it should have read Kevin Durant. I blame the editor.
Kevin Durant Wins Rookie/Sophomore Game MVP
The 2009 T-Mobile Rookie/Sophomore Game was a landmark moment. It marked the first and only occasion (and to my knowledge) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have squared off against each other in an official game – at least until Jalen Rose’s prophecy rings true in about two years. In a contest featuring the likes of Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon and more, Durant was left standing by night’s end as king of the hill.
It isn’t a stretch to mention on this very night five years ago, the process for Durant becoming a professional household name kicked into overdrive. And keep in mind, this was the same lanky kid who not only won National Player of the Year his lone season at the University of Texas, but Rookie of the Year his lone season as a Seattle Supersonic.*
Durant’s growing legend embraced the next step in its progression Valentine’s Eve 2009. Down 10 in the second half, the man later known as “Slim Reaper” put together arguably the most impressive sequence of the weekend: a trio of three pointers and a defensive rebound/assist that cut the lead to two and momentum permanently in the Sophomores favor.
Forty-six points on 17-25 shooting later – a game record – the Association’s next transcendent luminary had arrived. And never again would he be left out of All Star Weekend’s main course.
**cues David Stern’s Birdman hand rub**
* – KD’s second year numbers? 25.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 APG on 48-42-86 shooting splits.
Drake Releases ‘So Far Gone’
Lost in the hoopla of Kanye’s College Dropout turning a decade is Drake’s third mixtape turning a half decade three days later. Mere hours before Durant stated his case for superstardom in Phoenix, a then-relatively unknown MC from Toronto did the same boasting co-signs from NBA All-Stars like Chris Paul and LeBron James.
No mixtape in the years since had the immediate and longterm impact SFG manifested for Drake – spoken with reverence and adulation only reserved for named like 50 Cent, Cam’ron and The Diplomats, DJ Drama and Young Money prophyte Lil Wayne. Watching the reviews (positive and negative) spread via word-of-mouth, tweets, Facebook statuses and group texts seemingly by the minute drove home confirmation something extraordinary was happening. Gone’s release in real-time ranks as one of those moments in rap new media history truly comparable to only itself.*
Links spread like wildfires, 2,000 downloads were eclipsed in less than two hours, blogs sprinted to plaster the tape on their respective front pages and social media went apeshit crazy both dissecting and praising Drake and 40’s comprehensive body of work. From there, a nationwide tour emerged. Radio stations flocked to its new mainstay. A star was born.
Exactly 60 months later, three platinum albums, 18 Grammy nominations (one win), his own brand, public displays of malice towards the 2014 Grammys golden child (Macklemore), the most number one Hip-Hop/R&B singles of all-time and essentially a primary figurehead in bringing All Star Weekend to Toronto in 2016, one notion remains nearly undeniable.
SFG was as aptly titled a project as there’s been following its release.
* – On second thought, Beyonce’s recent blitzkreg of an album does. While not at SFG hysteria levels, the day Kush & Orange Juice dropped was a momentous day in social media rap history, too.
Shaquille O’Neal And Kobe Bryant: Reunited And Somehow They Still Made It Kinda Awkward…Because They’re Shaq And Kobe
Check Kobe’s career arc in 2008-2009:
He was named league MVP in 2008, lost 4-2 in the Finals to the Celtics, had hands down my favorite Kobe moment ever by saving America from complete damnation in the ’08 Olympic Gold Medal game, won All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP four months later.
Not even a week following the ’08 Finals, former running mate Shaquille O’Neal laid forth on the world his now-legendary and infamous “Kobe, how’s my ass taste?” freestyle. It was the 2009 All Star Game where irony and life came full circle.
A vastly underrated torture tactic is revisiting the highlights from said game. From Allen Iverson starting and both Amar’e Stoudemire and Brandon Roy leaping out of the gym before their bodies went AWOL, watching without a box of tissues nearby doesn’t rank as the world’s brightest idea.
Yet, by the end of the game – a 146-119 West win – there they were. Co-MVPs. Kobe with 27 points and Shaq with 17 on 8-9 shooting in less than 11 minutes. The still-young century’s most recognizable, polarizing, accomplished and head-scratching combo accepting a trophy together again like it was 2000, 2001 and 2002 – exactly 1,707 days since their last moment as teammates (Game 5, 2004 Finals). And while the two remained cordial following the game, it was evident Bryant was still the owner of some sense of aggression towards his Goliath counterpart (keep in mind, he still hadn’t won a title without Shaq at that point).
“We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff,” Bryant said. “We had a good time. That’s all.”
As for Shaq? “It felt like old times. I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me.”
For all the back-and-forth that symbolized their bond perhaps more than their triumphs, all he said-he said, all the revisionist history, all the memories of how their dynasty crumbled, all snitching and overweight finger pointing, what could have been and what should have been was replaced – for one night – by what actually was.